It was announced recently that US shopping search engine TheFind.com will provide its search technology to PayPal Offers, which returns results exclusively from merchants that accept payments through the eBay-owned system.

The US version is a useful (and fairly popular) service, so I’ve been trying out the UK site to see how it shapes up…

Online payments

There are a number of reasons why people prefer to shop using online payment services like PayPal and Google Checkout. These include online security / fraud concerns, while some people may not be able to get credit cards, and others may simply want somewhere to spend their eBay earnings.

PayPal had around 24% of the online payments market in the US last year, and is estimated to have around 21% of the UK market.

This means that retailers increasingly have an incentive to offer these payment methods for customers. A number have been introducing PayPal recently, including TopShop, JD Sports and dabs.com, though there are still plenty that haven’t signed up.

Homepage

The PayPal Offers homepage doesn’t instantly make it clear to visitors what the site does and how customers should use it. Also, the design is pretty uninspiring, and could have been made more visually appealing.

PayPal Offers homepage

Navigation

Apart from entering a term into the main search box, or selecting from one of the featured retailers promoted on the home page.

You can also select to search by store or by category by using a drop down menu on the left of the page. With a lot of stores and categories on offer, this is not the most user friendly method of searching.

Also, the stores on offer via this drop down do not all accept PayPal payments; Comet, for instance. Many customers may only find this out after selecting an item and entering address details.

Search results

The search results pages are a big improvement on the homepage; most were relevant to the terms I tried out, and the results are presented clearly, with a picture of each item.

PayPal has taken up about a quarter of the page with a header displaying its cashback offers, which means you can only see one line of results at a time. This is annoying, and the fact that it cannot be removed makes it even more so.

PayPal Offers search results

You can choose to see results in a grid display as above, or view them as a list. Hovering the cursor over a search result will give you a few more details about the products, though you need to go to the retailer’s site, which makes quick comparisons more difficult.

Unfortunately, some of the more useful features of the US version of TheFind are missing here, such as the ability to bookmark products and see your previous searches.

Filtering

Filtering options are essential when searching for products from a range of retailers and, though some useful filters here, there aren’t enough to effectively target your searches.

PayPal filters

Narrowing the search by brand, retailer or colour is useful, as is the slider which allows you to select the price range for your search, though loading these filters can be slow.

Filtering by colour is handy though, especially for clothes shopping, and the results for searches by colour were impressive, though some may find the tool cumbersome to use: 

Filter by colour

A number of feature filtering options are missing here, and the filters don’t change according to the product you are searching for, which would have been more useful.

For instance, if you are searching for a laptop, filters that allow you to specify the amount of RAM, processor speed and screen size would be much more useful.

Conclusion

The idea of collecting retailers that accept PayPal in one search engine is a good one for shoppers that use the service, and having teamed up with TheFind for this, I was expecting a much better shopping search engine.

Unfortunately, an uninspiring homepage and poor usability lets the site down. The site is not as effective as the US version, and lacks the kind of filtering options that would make it easier to sort through the results.

Plenty of other features which are useful on other shopping search engines are missing here; reviews of products and retailers, the ability to compare prices, and more detailed product information are just a few.

There is an audience for the site though, as plenty of people would like to use PayPal and other alternative payment methods online, while retailers could also benefit from opening up to people who would like to shop online but don’t want to use a credit card.

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