Timing is everything, even when you're shopping, according to executives at DealTime.com, a personal shopping service launching tomorrow. Though it shops like a bot, "It's a much fuller service," said Daniel T. Ciporin, CEO of the Stamford, Conn.-based company.
Users on the DealTime.com site are asked to type in the desired product, the amount they want to spend, and how long they can wait to find it. The application returns search results indicating whether any such deals are available. If not, users can sign up for a tracking service. Deal-Time.com's spiders crawl the Web every 15 minutes, matching products with a database of searched-for items. It searches not only retailers but classifieds and person-to-person auctions.
Users can return to the site to see if their deal has come in, or download DealTime's Desktop Notifier, which sits in the Windows toolbar and blinks or chimes when a request is fulfilled. Clicking on the icon opens a small window, which offers links to merchants who have the desired product. Results can also be sent telenumerically or by e-mail.
Unlike many comparison shopping services, DealTime.com does not charge online retailers a fee to be included in the search results. DealTime.com is supported by ad sales both on its site and on the Desktop Notifier. The company also sells "value-added" services to merchants, who can pay a premium to have their logo pop up in the search results window, have the company name bolded, or be placed higher on the list. DealTime.com's aggregated data is also for sale.
"We have the ability to track real-time demand data," Ciporin said, "the ability to tell a merchant, 'Hey, you have 372 people looking for an iMac. Do you want to serve an ad to them or alert them to a low price?'" Merchants can also be alerted to the price a user is interested in paying, allowing the merchant to target users with a specific offer.
DealTime.com users remain anonymous; it's their job to contact the merchant by clicking on the link if they want to buy. DealTime.com asks for no personal or demographic information except an e-mail address if the buyer wants notification.