The headlines have been abuzz with the announcement that Microsoft has acquired Europe’s biggest shopping comparison site. The tech giant has purchased Ciao (www.ciao.com) for $486M – from Greenfield Online.
The move does more than highlight that Microsoft is back in buying mode – it provides a strong insight into its strategy for securing Search Engine market revenue it has struggled to capture from the likes of Google and Yahoo!
Ciao.com attracts 19.6 million unique visitors per month in Europe according to comScore, which is more than double its closest rival Kelkoo.com.
“Integrating Ciao’s capabilities into Live Search will provide a strong launch-pad for our commercial search offer in Europe and enhance our e-commerce offering on MSN,” said John Mangelaars, Microsoft’s vice president of European Consumer and Online.
“Search is currently a list of rulings, but we want to provide users with information such as a list of airlines with the best fares or when users type in a restaurant name, we want to give them a map to the venue…”
The acquisition of ciao.com won’t provide Microsoft with a quick win in catching up to Google in terms of search market share, but moving away from competing purely on algorithm or ad platform is a smart move.
Google currently offers integrated product listings in its results via Google Products, but the service is far from a dominant offering. This could be Microsoft’s inroad.
The grand plan for Microsoft is to integrate product listings/reviews and retailer locations (via the recent Multimap acquisition), with the ultimate goal being to charge retailers for product specific traffic sent to their businesses.
Given that Google has most of this technology at its disposal already, and an extremely loyal advertiser base, Microsoft will have its work cut out on this front – but time will tell whether Microsoft can pull something out of their bag of tricks.