RealTime IT News

MSN Shopping Updates Storefront

Hold on to your credit cards, there's a newly revised shopping portal in town.

After a two-week beta testing period, Microsoft has launched its revised MSN Shopping portal. The comparison shopping engine is now packed with more "stuff" and boasts a six-fold increase in items and a hundred times more merchants.

The new site has been rebuilt from the "ground up" according to Microsoft. The new features include an RSS feed function, which allows users to subscribe to an RSS feed from any search results page. Users can now receive an update whenever a new item or price is changed, via their subscribed RSS feeds.

MSN's embrace of RSS comes as a recent Pew study found that 65 percent of Americans don't know what RSS is. Forrester Research has recently reported that only 2 percent of North American adults currently use RSS.

Beyond RSS integration, MSN Shopping has also beefed up its search capabilities, allowing users to search by price, features, name and user rating. Ratings and reviews are another new feature, which now allows MSN users to add their two cents about products.

A new "recently viewed" feature shows users their last five viewed items. Scott Austin, MSN Shopping's director of programming, said in the MSN shopping insider blog that this feature will help users have a more continuous shopping experience across sessions with recently viewed products, categories, searches and saved pages.

MSN's shopping site enters an increasingly crowded space, which includes comparison shopping engines from Yahoo, Google, AOL, Shopzilla and Shopping.com.

Though the space is filling up, the stakes in the online comparison shopping market are high. According to a March study from Shopzilla, 59 percent of consumers begin their shopping search at a shopping site aggregator as opposed to going directly to a merchant's site.