BT has launched an online comparative shopping service for UK consumers called btspree.com.
The service, which is free and does not require users to register, uses a database engine, designed by online shopping specialist Inktomi, to present lists of products, prices and brands in 21 categories for comparison.
There are two ways to navigate around the site: either you select a general category like 'electrical goods' and narrow down your search through a series of sub-categories; or you can enter a product type like 'jeans', specify a brand and a price range, and let the site look up what's available from any of the participating suppliers.
BT claims that btspree already offers over two million goods, including flowers, chocolate, lingerie, clothing, books, games, CDs and gifts. The aim of focusing on products like this is to cash in on what is anticipated to be a £450 million market for online purchases of Christmas gifts in the UK this year.
BT said it has already signed up 74 retailers to its service, including Tower Records, Smartshop and CD Zone.
However, in its early incarnation btspree would appear to suffer from a preponderance of US suppliers, which, despite the site's reassurances about the ease of shipping from abroad, may deter some potential customers.
Similarly there are major gaps in the service. There is no air travel section, and a cursory search of the the Alternative Music section failed to unearth a single UK-sourced recording.
BT expects more companies to join the service now that it is up and running. www.btspree.com
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