What are Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) and How Do They Work?

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With the growth of online shopping in recently years, the popularity and usage of comparison shopping engines (CSEs) have also increased significantly. Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) are websites that aggregate product information from various online stores and present the information to consumers online. This sort of aggregation can make the shopping experience easier for end users, and can save the consumer time in locating products from multiple retailers. In fact, Google has also seen the value in Comparison Shopping Engines and has created its own – Google Shopping. Google Shopping works in a similar manner to other comparison shopping engines on the Internet.

How do CSEs Obtain Product Information?

Comparison Shopping Engines generally use feed files that contain product information as the source of their data. Some CSEs also use web crawlers to obtain product information from online websites. Web crawlers visit websites and extract relevant product information such as title, price, image and url. However, because of the non-uniformity of websites, developing technology for web crawlers to extract such details can be very challenging and in many cases, the technical skills that are needed to build such functionality can be expensive to procure.

Given this, most CSEs use web feeds from online shops as the primary source of product data. Some web feeds may be obtained via the CSE’s own site. However, the more popular option for CSEs is to obtain web feeds via various affiliate networks. Some price comparison shopping engines use popular content management systems such as WordPress, along with plugins that allow retailers to submit product feeds. However, such websites can be very limited and normally only support a relatively small number of retailers.

How do CSEs Make Money?

Comparison shopping engines can earn revenue via purchases that are made from affiliate links on the CSE website. Once a purchase is made via the CSE, the CSE may earn an affiliate commission. Some CSEs also use a pay per click model for their websites where retailers pay a small fee for every click through to their website from the CSE. The PPC model is used by many CSEs such as Google Shopping.

An Example CSE – Pricedrone

In the UK, the price comparison shopping engine Pricedrone includes millions of products from over 50,000 online shops. Pricedrone primarily uses web crawlers to extract information from online shops. However, web feeds are also used to obtain product information for a small number of retailers. Once the product data is obtained, it is then transformed into a format that can be easily queried by end users. Pricedrone currently uses WordPress for its front end, and uses a backend that’s hosted in the Amazon cloud. Such a backend is required to host the millions of products that are aggregated by Pricedrone. Pricedrone currently uses the affiliate link model for earning revenue.


In conclusion, CSEs are useful tools for consumers shopping online. Although many users do not regularly use CSEs directly, consumers regularly interact with CSEs indirectly via search engine results and can still leverage the benefits that CSEs bring in this way.

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