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How price comparison sites disrupted markets and forced healthy competition

price comparison websites

Speak to any online consumer in 2020 and chances are high that you’ll find they have used (or regularly use) some form of price comparison website.

There is now a huge range of online comparison services, scouring an equally diverse range of markets for the best prices and deals – on everything from holidays to insurance and mobile phone services.

A short history of price comparison websites

Price Comparison Websites (also known as PCWs) have been around since the very early days of internet but really started to have an impact in the mid-90s. One of the first, most recognized and most commercially-successful PCW’s was a site called BargainFinder – but in its wake thousands of other services have appeared online.

These days, there are PCW’s operating in almost every sector – including sites offering highly specialized services. For example, the comparison site has a specific division focussing purely on finding the best water deals and services for business users. It is now very common for comparison providers to try to corner specific market sectors to gain a competitive advantage and return the best value to their customers. 

How PCWs gained such a solid market position

The growth of PCWs is down to many factors combined. However, without doubt one of their greatest advantages from a consumer point of view is convenience. Where once customers had to spend hours trawling through (and trying to decipher) lengthy specification documents or contracts, with a PCW they can perform a simple search on a single website and have easily-digestible results appear in seconds. 

It doesn’t seem so long ago that hunting for the best deal involved ringing companies or visiting individual sites – but PCWs changed all that and have also served to promote healthy competition between providers. Again, from a consumer point of view, having prices and terms all displayed next to one another on a single page makes the purchasing journey considerably easier. It has also forced companies to keep a close eye on their rivals so as to stay competitive. 

Where PCWs might go in future

As consumer habits continue to evolve and e-commerce services come to play an ever-more-important and growing role in the retail environment, it seems likely PCWs will remain popular. The rising diversification in the markets serviced by the price comparison providers, should mean that consumers will have even greater access to yet more products and services, meaning PCWs won’t be disappearing any time soon.  

With the rise in PCW use, will company websites still be needed?

In a nutshell, yes. If you’re a company owner, being featured in price comparison listings will almost certainly bring you new and increased business opportunities – but clients will still want to learn more about your company and will likely still look for your site. Moreover, having a website and a strong social media presence goes a long way to instilling trust in clients and will increase your overall online profile and branding. Also, if you employ effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your site, there is every chance potential clients may find you directly in search engines like Google. 

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