Santa Was Good to DealTime

It was a very good holiday season indeed for, as the privately held online shopping search company reported record revenues of more than $11 million for the fourth quarter and said it was profitable on a GAAP basis for the second half of the year.

“2002 was a major break-out year for DealTime and comparison shopping in general,” said Dan Ciporin, DealTime’s chairman and CEO. “Visits, customer conversion rates and revenue-per-referral grew dramatically…”

“The whole notion of online comparison shopping is becoming a mainsteam Internet activity,” Ciporin told “… DealTime and other sites make it ridiculously easy to shop online providing all the information you want, even taxes and shipping cost data.”

“The consumer can do all the research in one fell swoop,” he said.

In fact, measurement firm comScore Networks, in a December report on comparison shopping sites, said that one in four online shoppers visited such a site during the holiday season. The top comparison site according to November’s visitor figures was, with 9.6 million unique visitors.

Surprisingly, DealTime ranked as the third most popular online site in the category of stand-alone Web shopping domains throughout December 2002, according to measurement and analysis firm comScore Networks, trailing only (which has a paid relationship with DealTime) and comScore doesn’t count eBay, AOL, Yahoo or MSN as stand-alone shopping sites.

DealTime said annual revenues were $29 million, exceeding previously announced estimates and doubling for the third consecutive year.

Specifics of net income were not disclosed, as DealTime is a private company, venture-backed by key strategic and financial partners worldwide, including Bertelsmann, AOL Time Warner, Bank of America, Singapore Telecom and others.

Visits to more than doubled in 2002, and the site ranked as a Top 10 Internet shopping destination throughout the year, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. And, the site delivered a 13.3 percent conversion rate for sales to merchants on DealTime referrals, the company said, citing independent research reported in the

New York City-based DealTime, which recently scored a pact with EarthLink that makes it the power behind that ISP’s shopping channel, is now on version 3.0 of its proprietary search technology. The company says that for 2002, it doubled shopping searches and referrals to merchants and tripled its merchant base to more than 1,500 online stores.

The competition includes BizRate, PriceGrabber, NexTag and others, but that’s not what worries Ciporin. “I’m not worried so much about the direct competition as I am about what else might be out there – the unknown. We feel we’ve established a leadership position with a real technology edge.”

Could that position lead to an initial public offering? Ciporin said that for now the focus is on “trying to build a great company… we think the discipline of being a public company is a good thing, … we like the notion of the financial discipline. (But )we will let any IPO take care of itself, if you will.”

DealTime makes its money by charging member merchants on a cost-per-click basis. Products appear in the search results according to how much the merchants pay in each subcategory.

But not all the e-commerce retailers pay. “We have a number of merchants that do not pay us anything,” Ciporin said, adding that the company’s revenue model is a modified yellow pages approach.

“Just as in the yellow pages, you tend to call the merchants with the larger ads, and in the same fashion, if you pay DealTime for a listing, you’ll get more prominent placement, color logos, that sort of thing,” he said.

A complete explanation of the merchant program is available here. The company launched its service to consumers in the United States in June 1999. It also has a U.K operation.

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