Dubbed the HotBot Shopping Directory, the service, powered by database firm Junglee, will allow users to search for items in 14 product categories--such as books, music, computer software, computer hardware, and travel--by price or product attributes, according to Doug Nester, director of commerce for Wired Digital. He said four more product categories will be added in the coming weeks.
Wired Digital considers HotBot a "portal for power users," said Andrew de Vries, director of marketing communications for Wired Digital. The firm defines "power users" as those who have been "on the Web longer than the average user--Web developers and Web enthusiasts," he said.
As such, the company has not gone the way of traditional search-driven portal sites--such as Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and Infoseek--which tend to offer an array of add-ons such as free email, paging services, and local guides in an effort to be the home page for as many users as possible.
"We're not trying to be everything to everybody, so we're not competing directly with Yahoo or Lycos," de Vries said.
However, HotBot also is not competing with Yahoo, Lycos, or the other portals on Wall Street. Wired Ventures, Wired Digital's parent, has had its share of financial woes, including a few failed IPO attempts. The traditional portals are Wall Street's darlings in part because of their potential for mass appeal.
Nester pointed out that the company decided to upgrade the shopping service because HotBot's users are "40 percent more likely to purchase items online" than the average Net user, citing data from research firm @Plan as well as merchant feedback.
De Vries said Wired Digital expects e-commerce to account for $20 million in revenue for the firm over the next three years. He said it will make up roughly 15 percent of revenues for 1998. Revenues for Wired Digital were $3.4 million in the first quarter of 1998, up 133 percent from the same period last year, de Vries said.
Wired Ventures sold its well-known print property Wired magazine to Condé Nast Publications last month. At the time, de Vries said the proceeds from the sale would go toward funding the firm's Internet efforts. Wired Digital is expected to make up 40 percent of revenue for Wired Ventures in 1998, up from 7 percent in 1996 and 30 percent in 1997, the firm said.