Why Kevin Tucker bought back PriceCheck

PriceCheck (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
PriceCheck (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Johannesburg - Local price comparison website PriceCheck has come a long way since Kevin Tucker started coding it from scratch in his bedroom in 2006.

The website - which offers consumers a chance to compare prices on products ranging from laptops, cars and even dishwashers - today reaches two million monthly users across Africa, according to Tucker.

However, Tucker, who sold PriceCheck to Naspers’ MIH Internet Africa in 2010, announced last week that he has bought back the site again with the help of Silvertree Internet Holdings.

Tucker has returned to PriceCheck’s fold after venturing into other businesses such as Shoppingfeeder.com which helps retailers and companies get their products and services to appear on price comparison websites across the globe.

But now Tucker plans to refocus his energy again on the business that put him in South Africa’s tech spotlight.

“There’s a lot of value in the brand - the brand has grown,” Tucker said of PriceCheck in an interview with Fin24.

“You know, Naspers has spent quite a bit of money growing the brand over the last five years and I think there’s a lot of brand affinity out there in the public. We think there’s a lot we can do moving forward to grow the business even more, grow the revenue from those users.

“We think they’re under-monetised at the moment. So, there’s all sorts of factors where we think we can grow revenue and improve the experience users have with what has been built up already,” said Tucker.

PriceCheck is currently struggling to generate a profit with its model of getting retailers and companies to pay for clicks to products on the website, said Tucker.

As a result, Tucker explained how he plans to boost this model by turning it into a stronger lead generation tool.

“We’re going to improve what we’re going to do,” Tucker told Fin24.

“So, we’re going to try to push more leads through the system to make more money from what we currently do. And we’re also going to introduce better insurance comparison, other financial services where the lead and acquisition fee is much higher,” said Tucker.

Planned restructuring

Harking back to the years between 2006 and 2010, Tucker said he’s also going to refocus the business as a startup again to remove extra costs that PriceCheck is said to have accumulated while it was assimilated into a more corporate environment at Naspers.

One of those streamlining efforts is also set to include restructuring among its 41 staff across South Africa and Nigeria, said Tucker. Before selling the business to Naspers, PriceCheck was just a four person business, said Tucker.

“We are doing restructuring, that’s not a secret and that means restructuring staff, that means restructuring costs, restructuring supplier contracts - all that kind of stuff.

Tucker said the restructuring is a “necessary exercise” in order for PriceCheck to become profitable again.

“Unfortunately, the staff restructuring is currently still ongoing - I can’t really talk about that,” Tucker.

Looking ahead

Amid the changes at PriceCheck, Tucker has also outlined what potentially lies ahead for the business.

Tucker said that currently there are few big competitors for the website but that could change if search giant Google pays more attention to South Africa’s shopping scene.

“It’s a double-edged sword because Google provides a lot of traffic for us, but it’s also a competitor.

“Outside of Africa, Google also operates a price-comparison service called Google Shopping. It doesn’t exist in South Africa yet or Nigeria, so, that potentially in the future could also be a bigger competitor,” said Tucker.

Tucker said PriceCheck is also expected to collaborate more closely with other businesses linked to Silvertree Internet Holdings such as ClicknCompare, which is a portal for African consumers looking to source services and get advice related to verticals such as insurance, mobile, broadband, and banking.

“Going forward we also see a lot of synergy in the group and PriceCheck will be the kind of flagship traffic driver to a lot of these businesses,” Tucker told Fin24.

Silvertree has the majority stake in PriceCheck, Tucker said. Yet this doesn’t mean that Tucker could take more of a backseat.

“I’m invested very heavily in the business; I’ll put it that way,” he said.

*Fin24 is part of Media24 which is owned by Naspers.

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