Search engine HotBot pushes e-commerce

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Wired Digital today announces aggressive plans for electronic commerce that include a first push to build its HotBot search engine brand and $20 million in commitments from retailers on a new e-commerce offering.

Wired Digital is positioning HotBot as the "premium portal for power users," and expanding what began late last year as ShopWired into the HotBot Shopping Directory.

The new directory moves from a handful of exclusive merchandisers in specific categories to more than 14 categories with multiple retailers in most. HotBot Shopping also goes from simply a space on the front page of the search engine to its own destination site; the ShopWired name disappears.

Wired Digital's parent, Wired Ventures, last month sold off Wired magazine to Conde Nast Publications but retained the Wired name in perpetuity.

"We are continuing to focus on the Wired brand, but we will also be building HotBot," said Andrew DeVries, Wired Digital director of marketing communications. "We feel it's important to build both brands at the same time."

HotBot this year already has jumped to 16th from 23rd in monthly listings of most highly trafficked Web sites, according to RelevantKnowledge.


Wired Digital has generated $20 million in deals over a three-year period for the HotBot Shopping Directory. Wired executives said each deal has been individually tailored, with advertisers locked in for six months to three years. Only two categories remain exclusive: will be the only bookseller and N2K's Music Boulevard the only music seller.

Two of the original retailers on ShopWired--Virtual Vineyards and Cyberian Outpost--have not signed deals for the HotBot directory, said Doug Nester, Wired Digital director of commerce. However, he pointed out that both are still advertising on other Wired Digital sites and are weighing their options.


Wired Digital also is adding a quick price-comparison feature. On every page of the HotBot directory, users can ask for a comparison and get back a list of products based on various specifications, including features and price.

"There's a split reaction. Some retailers do not want to be known as a price brand. They don't want that as a positioning in the marketplace," Mr. Nester said, though so far no advertiser has backed away because of the price comparison.

Retailers can opt to be excluded from the comparison database.

"But we really wanted to deliver an enhanced user experience and also have a better environment for retailers," he said. "We're trying to balance what the user wants with what the merchant wants."

Retailers get added perks, such as the inclusion of hot link buttons on the quick price integrated search page. Also, certain retailers will be linked to the shopping directory from other Wired Digital sites.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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