Shopping Bots

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Shopping Bots

What is a shopping bot?

A “shopping bot” is an electronic price comparison service. Shopping bots are a convenient, rapid way to compare prices between multiple electronic vendors, and in some cases, traditional retail vendors. In response to a query, such as an ISBN#, title, or brand/product description, a shopping bot will return a sorted list of prices and product descriptions, sometimes including comparative shipping costs.

Are shopping bots personal agents?

Software agents include some level of “artificial intelligence” or decision-refinement algorithms that evolve a solution from a simple query and take action on the query. Current shopping bots are more akin to metasearch engines. They do not fulfill a request, but merely return information in response to a query. At present, shopping bots have not reached the point where they are software agents, but everyone expects shopping bots to evolve into personal software agents as the technology improves. Most already include algorithms that “learn” from prior queries in order to return more useful information.

Where do shopping bots reside?

Most popular shopping bots are resident on the web, but some are programs that are downloaded by the user and are resident on the local hard drive. The downloaded programs operate in a similar manner to the web-based interfaces, but with a different revenue model. Web-based shopping bots generate revenues through a combination of advertising and commissions on sales linked through the shopping bot. User resident programs generally can be downloaded as a shareware version with reduced functionality, or purchased as full-function software. Because user-resident shopping bots do not usually r...

... middle of paper ... bots. The comprehensive nature and specificity of the site make it an extremely valuable resource.


Shopping bots are personal agents in embryo, and are currently an exciting development made possible by web-based e-commerce. The functionality of shopping bots is changing rapidly in what is becoming an enormous market opportunity. The war for portals has subsided, and the next battle will be between the search services, including shopping bots, and the actual vendors. Both are competing for the loyalty of the web-savvy consumer. As shopping bots improve, and begin to function more like personal agents and less like search services, they will become an indispensable tool of modern life in the age of e-commerce. One need only look at the revenues of “yellow pages” companies to understand the enormous potential inherent in shopping bots.

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