Reign of the Widget

I played around with PopShops.com, a relatively new service for affiliate marketers and anybody else who wants to monetize their website or blog. PopShops.com was founded by Jessie Jones.

Overview
PopShops is a tool that offers easy to generate mini shops and widgets for your site, feed or blog. PopShop lists over 800 merchants with over eight million products across the three leading affiliate networks CJ, LinkShare and ShareASale (more will follow). It also supports some in-house programs.

Note on the side: Kudos to Dan Harms and his development team. I know how hard it is to kick around a couple million products from several hundred data feeds. It is blazing fast.

The interface is easy to use and true Web 2.0 style, using the prototype framework.

The available output options range from JavaScript snippets, classic ASP and PHP code, XML, RSS, TypePad or Blogger widget and more. The basic version is free and does not use “click sharing” or “fourth Click”, like GoldenCan or DataFeedFile, who offer similar services. This means that your affiliate links are used for every click by users on your site on any of the advertised products in the widget.

Paid versions (monthly fee) offer additional features including white label results. Currently every account has access to the full feature set, because the service is still in beta. That will change once they are out of beta and beta-customers can decide then, if they want to upgrade to the paid version or not.

Since PopShops does not interfere with the business between the affiliate and the merchant, thus do not have the need for an affiliate relationship with every merchant they support. Merchant tools are currently under development. If you are a merchant and would like to have your feed included, contact PopShops directly, at Affiliate Summit for example or other upcoming industry events.

Let us have a closer look at the service. You can create a new shop with a click of a button. You can create as much shops as you would like for different purposes.

1. Pick Products
To get products into the shop, simply enter what you are looking for and search across the vast product database. The search took only a second or so, which is amazing.


(Click image to enlarge)

Note: In my specific example did I look for laser toner for the Brother HL-2040. It returned four results. The prices and features varied from merchant to merchant. I also do not know, if visitors of my site have preferences regarding the merchant they buy from. A cool feature to consider for the future would be the option to pick a UPC, ISBN or EAN13 and allow product comparison across multiple merchants. Think about it. I am sure there are others who would also love a comparison-shopping feature like this.

2. Customize the Layout
Add the products you like and pick the layout you want.


(Click image to enlarge)

There are already several styles to choose from, but if you don’t like any of them, go ahead and create your own via an easy to use WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor.

Trust me, if I say that it is easy to use and that there is no reason to shy away from it, even if you are not so tech savvy.

Note: Because it is the goal to make it easy to use, does it also limits the flexibility a bit, which might be worth improving on in the future. It might be a nice to have the option for more tech savvy users to be able to edit the html template code and work with placeholders for the individual content elements.

3. Pop It


(Click image to enlarge)

Ones you added the products and choose the layout, is it time to specify in which format you would like the shop to be generated or which platform you would like to use for it.

This is also the time where you have to specify your affiliate IDs for the individual networks or products, if you have not done it already in your account settings. The PHP and ASP options provide web developers with some ready to use template code, which is nice and thoughtful. The JavaScript option is probably the best for anybody who does only know some HTML to be able to add the code snippet to his website. Blogger (new Blogger) and TypePad users don’t have to know anything really, because those two blog platforms support external widgets already. The integration of the PopShop into your blog takes nothing more than a click of a button.

Note: Where are the WordPress and MoveableType plug-ins?

For the folks who are worried about duplicate content filters by search engines, does PopShops provide a feature called “SEO Rules”. It allows you to replace, insert or append keywords and phrases to elements, such as the product name, description and/or image alt tag.

That is it for the most part. Remember that the service is still in beta so there might be bugs here and there. If you notice one, let them know. I am sure that they will appreciate it.

I think I found a bug, or at least did the site behave differently than I expected it to behave.

The columns by rows selection to the right were automatically changing either the number of rows or columns, if I changed one or the other. For example, it did change the number of rows to 14 after I selected five columns and the number of columns to seven if I changed the number of rows to four.

I was unable to specify that I would like to have five columns and four rows. I think that this is not right. Correct me, if I am mistaken.

You see, that’s why it’s in beta hehe (Sorry Angel, I had to).

But seriously, I think that it is a very promising tool, which I recommend to affiliates and merchants alike. If you did not do so already, go ahead and signup at PopShops.com today and pop your own little shop.

There are several other services out there, which offer similar, but not identical services. If you are interested in this subject, check out my affiliate data feed resources on my website at cumbrowski.com.

Chat with Angel from PopShops.com
Angel Djambazov acts as the Marketing and Business Development Manager for PopShops.com. This fact does reinforce my belief that they very well know what they are doing. Angel is very experienced in affiliate marketing, who was awarded the title “In-House Manager of the Year 2006” by ABestWeb.com and “Affiliate Manager of the Year 2006” (pdf) by Affiliate Summit for his excellent job as affiliate manager for OnlineShoes.com

He responded to my inquiry about PopShops.com and its goals with the following statement.

Our mission is to create a new generation of affiliate tools. Our focus is two-fold:

  • Provide affiliates with dynamic easy-to-use showcase tools that allow them to focus on truly merchandising products to their visitors.
  • Provide merchants with powerful tools to improve and customize their data feeds for the affiliate channel.

Angel and PopShops.com will have a booth at Affiliate Summit in July in Miami, FL and they will also be attending Commission Junction University CJU and the LinkShare Symposium. If you are a merchant or affiliate and want to have a personal chitchat with them or have some questions you need answered stop by their booth and talk to the guys from PopShops.com in person. You can also contact Angel via email at angel at popshops dot com.

See also … Synthasite
Another good example of leveraging the new technologies and possibilities for affiliate marketers is the recent alpha launch of Synthasite, a project by Vinny Lingham’s Incubeta. The difference between the two is that PopShops.com lets you enrich your existing site with product showcase widgets, while Synthasite also allows people to create complete sites to promote selected products.

Conclusion
This is a good development for the industry in my opinion. The only thing sad about it is the fact that smart affiliate marketers and entrepreneurs are now doing the job that was supposed to be the job of affiliate networks. How much more wake-up calls are needed to them realize that the train is in motion, without them.

CJ’s introduction of Webservices last September at CJU was a step into the right direction, but since the announcement did not much happen there. CJ listen, you got tons of feedback and suggestions already at CJU. None of it did seem to have made it into the services yet. Why did you stop?

Additional Coverage

Cheers!
Carsten Cumbrowski

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

9 Responses to Reign of the Widget

  1. Wow… excellent write up!

    Thanks for the time and research (and screen shots).

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m curious who is heading up webservices for CJ. I know Frank Gerstenburger was really behind it but he’s moved on since the last CJU.

  3. I believe that it is Anders Bjoras, but who knows. You don’t hear anything official. It got launched, had the little contest, got a lot of feedback, end of story. Weird.

  4. Brian Free says:

    The era of the widget continues. I love widgets, more and more continue to evolve with more capacity to do cool things and make designing websites easier

  5. Mike HYland says:

    The shopping widgets are great showcase displays guaranteeing every click comes from a hosted domain creative. Problem is the 40 million Adware infested shoppers get immeditae or delayed popup from the Adware affiliates stealing the sales commission on most of the participating merchants.

    Maybe the Valueclick class action suit will run the Adware folks out of the force cookie click popup business.

  6. James says:

    If you are interested by that kind of software, take a look on Zlio.com ! You will also be able to create your own shops !

  7. Anders Bjoras is indeed in charge of webservices, and I think they just added some features.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I believe some guy named chi ming was running the project