June 27th, 2006
It’s nothing new.
I get this comment all the time when I’m trying to describe what I think is a (r)evolutionary change. It’s human instinct to cleave to what we already know, to hope that we can continue to live comfortably in the world that we’ve already wrapped our minds around.
Sometimes, what’s hailed as a revolution is in fact just a lot of old (or stolen) hype. But sometimes the failure to recognize something new is a failure of imagination.
Jellyfish launched its new “buying engine” yesterday (see coverage in Mashable, WSJ, and ClickZ), and some of the feedback has inevitably been — “it’s nothing new.” I’ve spend a fair amount of time talking to founders Brian Wiegand and Mark McGuire, and I think what they’ve imagine with Jellyfish IS new, and potentially revolutionary.
Jellyfish is drafting off all of the deeply entrenched modes of online marketing and advertising, including pay-per-click search advertising, affiliate marketing, cash back rebates, and comparison shopping. Jellyfish takes elements from all of these approaches and combines them into a platform that aspires to create a liquid and efficient market for e-commerce transactions.
The keys here are “market,” “efficiency,” and “liquidity.”
Despite all of the dramatic gains in efficiencies that online advertising, marketing and e-commerce have introduced, each of the current systems retains deep inefficiencies. Jellyfish is (through its beta) on the path to creating a truly liquid market where all of the following elements can dynamically interact to increase efficiency and consumer value (or “value per action,” as Jellyfish calls it):
- Search result rankings by key word relevancy
- Search result rankings by best price
- Cash back rewards
- Sales volume and purchase patterns
- Product reviews and ratings
- Merchant ratings
- Refer-a-friend networks
- Channel-specific merchant control over pricing
- Actual purchase transactions
I’m probably missing something, and not all of this has been rolled out yet in the beta. But already you can see the outlines of where Jellyfish is going in the beta’s product page, which cleanly combines merchant ratings, sales volume, and cash back discounts.
I’ve looked at Ebates and Fatwallet, Shopzilla and Pricegrabber, Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing, Commission Junction and Linkshare, and even Google’s new cost-per-action program, and I can’t find anyone else who is combining all of these elements with an eye towards creating a liquid market. (If I’ve overlooked anyone, please let me know.) The only other player I’ve found who sees the opportunity in the market is Root.net, although they’ve headed down the data collection path as opposed to Jellyfish’s more consumer-facing shopping application. (Root is worth watching as well.)
Closer to the ground, Jellyfish has all the Ajax features you would expect, including filtering and refinement of searches by manufacturer, store, and price:
They also have an innovative approach to merchant ratings, based on the Better Business Bureau model of complaint management, rather than the star rating approach, which lacks in nuance:
Many people will judge Jellyfish based only on what’s in their beta or based on the easiest comparison to an existing site. I continue to be excited by Jellyfish’s vision of what a liquid online market COULD be, and how it could change the dynamics of online advertising and e-commerce — which, let’s face it, haven’t seen much game-changing innovation since Overture, Google, Ebay, and Amazon.
I will be watching closely as Jellyfish grows and enriches its market with data through utilization to see whether they are able to continue down the path to realizing this vision.
But until then, you’ve got to use your imagination (and, if necessary, read Umair Haque on the virtues of “liquidity”).