Taking one step further the "decision engine" mantra that Microsoft
Ask's new life as a dealmaker began yesterday, when its homepage was transformed into a single snazzy photograph wrapping around the search box. Bing has done this same thing for months, with hotspots along the page triggering educational tidbits. Ask's snapshot was of a crowded park in autumn. The key difference is that Ask's mouseover hotspots had "deal" tags for watches, cameras, and outdoor jackets.
Clicking on any of the deal buttons brings up a new page with merchant deals and online coupons. It's slick. It's clever. It's great timing as we head into the holiday shopping season next month.
The larger search engines have tried to marry search with e-commerce. Google
Froogle eventually was rechristened as Google Product Search, and yes, it's as bland as it sounds.
Google's saving grace, of course, is that its bread-and-butter search engine delivers natural leads to merchants through its Google AdWords paid-search platform.
On the flipside, folks hitting Ask.com for routine searches may be turned off by the site's commercialism. Microsoft buries its salesman suit behind a shopping tab, and it's only then that Mr. Softy begins shooting off deals and promoting its cash-back rebate program.
I still really like this move. Even if it may appear insensitive to be peppering landing pages with "deal" placards at a time when money is tight, Ask Deals will do well when holiday shoppers seek out online coupons and merchant-specific bargains.
IAC's search engine isn't going to get noticed unless it pushes the envelope. It's doing that now, and even the envelope is on sale.
Have you checked out the Ask.com homepage, Bing Shopping, or Google Product Search lately? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story, although he is a freelance contributor to IAC's Citysearch. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.