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AOL Launches InStore

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-09-20

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America Online today announced the launch of inStore, an all-new online shopping destination on the AOL service and the Web that offers shoppers an intuitive and comprehensive experience with unbeatable selection, security and value.

inStore is available on the AOL service at AOL Keyword: inStore and as a standalone destination on the Web. It is also integrated with the AOL Search service, as well as available through the AOL.com Web site, Netscape and CompuServe services and the CompuServe.com Web site.

The centerpiece of inStore is Pinpoint Shopping, AOL's new shopping search tool that offers an easy and fast way to compare features and prices for millions of products from thousands of online merchants. Pinpoint Shopping combines BizRate.com's comparison shopping search platform - which produces the industry's most relevant search results by weighing price, popularity and availability of products against the reputations of merchants that sell them - with AOL's own shopping search technology that features filtering, remembering and alert capabilities to deliver a more objective and consumer-friendly approach to online shopping.

inStore represents a fundamentally different and new consumer offering, and also signals a new way of working with AOL's world-class merchant partners that is aligned with their needs and retail planning cycles.

"With inStore, we've overhauled our eCommerce strategy to put AOL back in the game," said David Lebow, Executive Vice President and General Manager of AOL Media Networks. "We've leveraged our expertise to create a dynamic online environment using the best of emerging technology and our insights into millions of online users to build a destination that makes online shopping an even more valuable experience."

inStore Built Around the Way People Shop Online

AOL is launching inStore at a time of explosive growth in the eCommerce category, with annual sales expected to reach $316 billion by 2010. Already, 60% of Internet users are shopping via cyberspace, and AOL members alone spent more than $15 billion online in the past year.

"We talked directly to members and non-members about how they like to shop online and their frustrations with current shopping destinations and designed inStore with distinct offerings for every type of Internet consumer," said Bob Hayes, Vice President and General Manager of eCommerce. "inStore is all about creating a superior online shopping experience that also extends offline, and at the heart of the experience is Pinpoint Shopping, a search product that is simple, dynamic and fun."

"At the same time," Hayes said, "our new toolset and business model will allow our merchant partners to deliver their full value proposition to consumers, and to maximize revenue potential, return on investment and brand equity, while making it possible for AOL to regain a real stake in the business."

inStore's Pinpoint Shopping makes online shopping simple and convenient with objective product results to help people quickly find what they want at the best price. The shopping search functionality is supported by BizRate.com's catalog of 25 million products and 48,000 merchants, one of the largest and most comprehensive catalogs available online.

"We are pleased to be working with AOL to help consumers save time and money while shopping online, and we look forward to continuously adding new innovative shopping search features to Pinpoint Shopping in the future," said Chuck Davis, President and CEO of BizRate.com. "This partnership also allows us to generate more quality consumer traffic for our merchants."

Additional Pinpoint Shopping Highlights include:

-- "Rapport," an intuitive, natural language approach to search that is like having a personal shopping assistant who saves time by narrowing search results.

-- BizRate.com's "Smiley Scale" ratings - the largest proprietary database of user ratings on the Web - for evaluating merchants, along with highlights of merchants that offer the AOL 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.

-- A "Remember It" option that allows shoppers to save items found from multiple merchants and categories in one convenient place, making it easy to compare products or return later when they are ready to buy.

-- Side-by-side comparisons to see key information (including images) about one product next to similar information for another product.

Additional inStore features include:

-- New customizable tools like My Favorite Stores, Localized Promotions and the Local Store Finder will save time by putting the most relevant shopping information front and center for the consumer.

-- A "shop with AOL Instant Messenger" feature lets consumers go on virtual shopping trips with their online buddies.

-- Special offers such as inStore exclusives, discounts, free shipping and other special savings events like One Day Sales.

-- AOL Alerts let inStore users set a desired price on a product and instantly learn when that price drop has occurred.

-- A revamped inStore Outlets area, to be launched at a later date, will offer bargain shoppers thousands of brand name products from dozens of merchants at up to 80% savings.

inStore Offers a New Approach to Merchant Partners

For AOL's merchant partners, inStore's new design and approach will enable them to achieve their own objectives more fully and creatively.

Michael Kelly, President of AOL Media Networks, stated, "inStore will capitalize on the opportunity to use the increasing power of search, the speed and rich media capabilities of broadband and improved personalization tools to take the experience to the next level not only for shoppers but for our partners as well. inStore is a base model for the new AOL Media Networks and marks the beginning of integrated solutions that allow AOL and its retail partners to maximize revenue growth."

inStore will offer AOL partner retailers:

-- Unmatched branding capabilities for key partners along with superior promotion and placements, especially seasonally, to capture shoppers' interest.

-- Greater use of rich media, standardized formats and broadband.

-- Various business models including traditional advertising models, as well as flat fee, rev share, CPC, sponsorship and CPM.

In addition, inStore merchant partners will connect with the most desirable shoppers online - AOL members, who account for 25% of all Internet spending. inStore also creates the optimal online shopping experience for retailers to market to all types of shoppers, whether it's browsers who are looking for a product through Pinpoint Shopping, or browsers and impulse buyers who are window shopping on inStore.

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