Facebook Buys And Shuts Down Shopping Site TheFind To Boost Commerce In Ads

Facebook today announced it has acquired personalized shopping search engine TheFind to help improve its commerce ads. TheFind had raised $26 million from Lightspeed and Redpoint since getting off the ground around 2005, but will now be shut down. Some, but not all, members of the team are joining Facebook.

TheFind’s product allowed people to get customized recommendations for products while searching through its massive database of products. A user could enter somewhat generic terms like “black sweater” and then compare prices on black sweaters from a wide array of retailers aggregated by TheFind. They could also discover places to buy their chosen product locally if they want it immediately.

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It’s Time We Ditched the Term ‘Cart’ in Online Shopping

For as long as any of us can remember, we have appropriated offline metaphors to describe their online equivalents. In the Web 1.0 era, putting real-life experiences directly online with little modification led to some of the greatest venture flops in history.

Today, when we talk about shopping online, the experience not surprisingly still centers around “the cart.” The shopping cart is an antiquated metaphor. It is time to ditch the cart. Frictionless, in-stream shopping is the holy grail.

Did you know that on average, 68 percent of peoplewho add something to an online shopping cart do not follow through to actually purchase that item? This phenomenon is called “cart abandonment” and it is the scourge of online retail.

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The best Android shopping apps

best Android shopping apps
It’s easier than it’s ever been before to spend money online. Between the widespread PayPal integration, the faster shipping, and the stable online stock, there are far more times when shopping online is better than shopping in an actual store. If you’re looking to spend some money on some new things, check out these best Android shopping apps.

amazon best Android shopping appsAmazon

[Price: Free]
No Android shopping apps list would be complete without Amazon. It’s the proverbial mega-mall of the Internet and thus deserves a spot on this list. You can find practically any kind of product you can think of and the addition of things like Amazon Pantry even let you shop for a limited number of food and beverage items. They also have things like lightning deals and deals of the day that are just fun to browse. It’s a free app with tablet support and it’s a name that’s trusted worldwide. There’s no reason not to get it.

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Online grocery shopping on the rise in Pakistan

Online grocery shopping startups

It’s still early days for Pakistan’s ecommerce market, as general-purpose estores like Kaymu.pk and Homeshopping.pk grow in line with the nation’s wired citizens. But that’s not deterring highly specialized sites from entering the country’s online shopping market. Online grocery shopping is one area with a lot of potential – because we all need groceries, they’re not a luxury, and they’re such a tedious commodity to go out and buy.

A number of online grocery stores have popped up in Pakistan in the past year. These sell staples like rice, lentils, daals, oils, fruit, and vegetables – and also household and personal items like washing powder, shampoos, and toothpaste. It’s not just the boring stuff – Pakistan’s egrocery sites also stock items such as coffee, tea, fruit juice, cookies, and ice cream.

Online grocery shopping on the rise in Pakistan

There’s so much action from startups in this space that a new site came online this week in the form of SmartMart (pictured above). The new estore focuses on the capital, Islamabad, and gives free delivery on orders over PKR 5,000 (US$52). SmartMart says that delivery will take a maximum of eight hours in the capital so long as the online order is made before 6 pm.

A chance to build on online shopping empire

Aside from SmartMart, three other notable online grocery services have emerged in Pakistan and seem to be well stocked with the right array of goods. These are AaramShop, PakistanGrocery, and Doorstep.pk.

Online grocery shopping on the rise in Pakistan

That first one, AaramShop (pictured above), might prove to be a tough rival to beat in this sector. AaramShop is an Indian ecommerce company that expanded into Pakistan in August last year. It operates in Pakistan in conjunction with local retail chain RedBox Groceries, which allows the website to ship items quickly – and requiring no cumbersome warehouse inventory – direct from RedBox shops. It’s currently focused on the city of Karachi.

With no oligarchy of supermarket chains in Pakistan – unlike in the US and many other nations – it’s a chance for startups in Pakistan to build an online shopping empire around the foodstuffs that we need to stock up on every week.

Yo Instacart, Can I Get Some Shareable Grocery Lists?

I suck at grocery shopping, at least compared to some of my friends. One knows exactly what vegetables go into a killer get-the-hell-out-of-bed smoothie. A gymrat buddy can suggest a healthier alternative to any popular foodstuff. And my favorite drunk has all the cocktail bar essentials memorized. Some of them already use grocery delivery service Instacart. Now I want them to be able to do the shopping for me.

Instacart does its best to digitize the grocery store experience. The $10.8 million-funded Y Combinator startup breaks up items into intuitive categories, and it ranks popular ones from each at the top. But the friction is still in the decision making process.

Shopping is exhausting, and in some ways, Instacart’s massive set of options makes it worse. In a supermarket, you have every brand and variation of a product right before your eyes. Because Instacart can only fit so much on the screen, and only shows items from one grocer at a time, it can be tough to know if you’re picking the tastiest, cheapest, or healthiest stuff. There’s also no easy way to price-compare, and no crowdsourced product ratings — two more features I think would help.

Having to choose which option to buy on Instacart over and over causes two conditions: analysis paralysis and decision fatigue.

Pepper DecisionsWhen confronted with too many options without a clear winner, humans tend to lock up and refuse to make any choice. For Instacart, this analysis paralysis could cause people to abandon their half-full shopping carts.

Meanwhile, it turns out that making decisions is like flexing a muscle, and if we overexert ourselves, we get weak and start making poor, hasty choices. This decision fatigue could cause Instacart users to rush through the end of their order, end up missing things they wanted, buying lower quality items, and having a worse experience.

Alongside informing people that you can actually order your groceries from your computer or phone, and hammering out logistics of reliable delivery, I’d bet that combatting these mental states will be one of Instacart’s biggest challenges.

That’s why I want Instacart to offer sharable shopping lists. Like sharable music playlists but for groceries.

My friends would be able to broadcast or privately share their whole list of purchases, or a selection of them centered around a theme like “Morning Juice Ingredients,” “Healthier Versions Of Your Favorites,” or “Cocktail Bar Starter Kit.” With a single click, I could add the same items or locally available substitutes to my cart, and boom, I’m shopping smarter with much less work.

And think if Instacart got celebrities sharing shopping lists? I’d love to eat what 4-Hour Body author Tim Ferriss orders. Well-toned starlets could show you how to get their bodies. Maybe the pizza-obsessed Jennifer Lawrence would even share her favorite late-night snacks. You can bet their fan bases would sign up for Instacart to shop like the stars.

c8f5c587dcd513f401365916587e3df664d66f1e6ad221b22a5b4e05ccd1c37aRight now, Instacart has a “Recipes” featurecurated by food blogs that offers shoppable ingredient lists and instructions for making dishes. But the only individual I saw recipes from was Martha Stewart. Plus I’m not looking for how to cook a specific dinner as much as improve my entire diet and drop the TechCrunch 10 I’ve picked up blogging from bed. Instacart told our writer Alex Wilhem six months ago that it was going to one day let people upload their own recipes, but we haven’t seen it yet.

So Instacart, here’s your opportunity to make groceries social. Give us shareable shopping lists so I’ll never have to try to carry all my food-filled bags in one trip again, because you’ll be delivering them.

Baggg.it Rebrands, Turns Into Shopping Extension Called Agora

When we last left Baggg.it, the founders Eliyah Finkelstein, Jonathan Cook, and Michael Cook were busy building a shopping extension, a Baggg if you will, that allowed you to comparison shop between sites and products. They were close to completion but they soon realized that sites with three Gs in the name had gone out with the BeeGeeGeeGees.

Well the boys are back in town with a rebranded site. Called Agora, they are gathering beta sign-ups and hope to be live this quarter.

The service essentially does the same thing as Baggg.it – you dump items into a persistent shopping bag – but the branding is completely rethought and the technology is far smoother. Most interesting, however, is that the entire team is working out of a small town in Iowa, far from the glitz, glamor, and fancy wines of the Valley.

“We all grew up in Fairfield, Iowa, went to the same school, and have been friends since early childhood. We started working on various programming projects together in our teens and have been working as consultants since around 18 years old up until about 3 years ago when we started our own company,” said Finkelstein. I first met this trio in Chicago where they were concerned about funding. Since then they’ve received $60,000 angel investment and a $100,000 Series A.

The programmers see their largest competitor as Google Shopping but unlike other sites like Fancy, Wanelo, and media sites like Pinterest, they have created a browser extension that sits on top of major shopping sites and creates a universal shopping card. “Agora is a productivity tool for shoppers in the same way that Microsoft Word is a productivity tool for writers. We’re not relying on building a social platform to create value, but rather our value comes from creating a set of tools that makes shopping online faster, easier, and more enjoyable for each individual user,” said Finkelstein.

You use it by dragging products off of, say, an Amazon page and onto a thin “belt” along the bottom of the screen. Agora stores the items for later perusal and offers you a central checkout.

“The current iteration of our service, Agora, attempts to help the user with all stages of the shopping process from beginning to end,” said Finkelstein. Given the interest in Baggg.it – horrible name and all – I’m looking forward to seeing where these lads are headed.

In New Venture, Bonobos Co-Founder Reimagines the Way Men Shop

The right fit means everything to Brian Spaly. When the Stanford University MBA student couldn’t find trousers that met his exacting standards, he learned to alter clothes himself. Eventually he designed a line of pants and started selling them out of the back of his car, a sartorial sideline that in 2007 blossomed into Bonobos, an online venture renowned for its colorful, tailor-made menswear. But when his partnership with his Bonobos co-founder grew strained, Spaly stepped out of the company and slipped into something more comfortable: In late 2009 he accepted an offer from Menlo Park, Calif.-based investment firm Anthos Capital to become CEO of Trunk Club, which was connecting fashion-frustrated men with personal stylists via Skype and mailing them on-demand cardboard trunks stuffed with designer clothing, outerwear, shoes and accessories, all handpicked based on the customer’s individual needs and tastes.

“Anthos came to me and said, ‘We can’t imagine someone who is better positioned to take over this company than you,'” Spaly recalls. “And I thought, This is a great fit for me.”

The Well-Dressed Man

It may not go through the blink-and-it’s-gone whims of women’s clothing trends, but the once-monotonous world of menswear is experiencing plenty of innovation. Here’s a look at some companies that are revolutionizing a key sector of the U.S. apparel business, from refining domestic manufacturing processes to enhancing the shopping experience for consumers.

It wasn’t yet the perfect fit, however. So Spaly ditched Trunk Club’s Skype format in favor of e-mail and phone interaction, as well as an even greater hands-on approach. After transplanting the firm from Bend, Ore., to downtown Chicago, he opened Trunk Club HQ, a physical site where men can come for one-on-one styling appointments, sidestepping the aggravation of shopping in department stores and malls. Consumers outside of Chicago can still sign up for the service online, creating personal profiles that detail their measurements and fashion preferences. Trunks are delivered as often as a customer wishes; the typical shipment contains six to 10 items from fashion partners like Gant Rugger, Billy Reid, Eton and Jack Spade, with an average price of $150 per item. There are no upfront costs, shipping and returns are free, and most members keep about one-third of the items they receive.

“As more and more men have grown fashionable, it has become harder for guys who are not fashionable to blend in. But I think a lot of guys have a sense of what they look good in, and they just need access to it,” says Spaly, a lean, scruffily handsome Michigan native clad in a pistachio-green button-down shirt and designer jeans direct from the Trunk Club catalog. “The apparel business is an area where there’s a lot of room for innovation.”

In 2011 Trunk Club closed an $11 million Series A financing round led by U.S. Venture Partners. Now more than 25,000 men have joined the service, most of them professionals ages 25 to 50 with annual income north of six figures. At the company’s current rate of growth, membership should reach 50,000 this year, with sales on pace to reach $45 million, which would vault the firm to profitability.

The larger Trunk Club gets, the better it fits Spaly’s entrepreneurial ambitions. “It’s not outrageous to think that one day we’ll have a million customers. At that stage, you’re moving the dial for almost 1 percent of the male population,” he says. “There’s a lot of room to unseat the entrenched competitors like Men’s Wearhouse, J.Crew, Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren. Those are the big sellers of men’s clothes, and we want to take all of their customers. I hope that one day–maybe it’s 20 years from now–people will look back and say: ‘That company changed the way Americans look.'”

Trunk Club

Out of the box: Trunk Club delivers handpicked designer clothing, shoes and accessories.

Spaly started his career in finance, not fashion. After graduating from Princeton University in 2000, he moved to San Francisco to take a job with financial services firm Bain & Company. “Around that time we went through a metrosexual revolution in this country,” he recalls. “That seminal article was written in The New York Times that coined the word metrosexual, and what that meant for someone like me was that people were starting to recognize that guys in their 20s were caring more about how they looked after the grunge era of the 1990s, where everything was too big–all Kurt Cobain flannels. But where does a guy go to get great clothes? There was a void.”

By the time Spaly entered Stanford in 2005, the movement was reaching critical mass. But he still struggled to find clothes he liked, a problem compounded by his distaste for shopping. Those frustrations–combined with the growth of digital commerce and his interest in exploring the entrepreneurial philosophies shaping his MBA studies–inspired Spaly and then-roommate Andy Dunn to launch Bonobos, a direct-to-consumer web brand specializing in trousers in a range of colors and styles.

“Guys don’t like shopping, so of course we weren’t going to go through stores,” Spaly says. “The reason [Bonobos] never wanted to sell through retailers is because retailers kinda suck. Their buyers are fickle and far more fashion-forward than the average customer. I don’t think they really know who their customer is. They’re supposed to, but I think they do a better job buying for their own interests, vs. what a linebacker from high school who’s now a banker in Chicago actually wears. That’s the guy we’re dressing.”

Backed by $50,000 from Spaly, $30,000 from Dunn and $750,000 from angel investors, Bonobos grew 23 percent month over month during its first year in business and generated revenue of $1.8 million in 2008 and almost $5 million the following year. But as Bonobos grew, so did tensions between Spaly and Dunn.

Trunk Club

“Andy sent me an e-mail that said, ‘I’m not sure our partnership is working all that well. Maybe one of us should move on. If you want to stay, I’ll go, and if you want to go, I’ll stay, but I don’t think it makes sense to do this together.’ It was a really thoughtful e-mail, and it sparked a conversation about whether we were meant to be co-leaders of the business going forward,” Spaly explains. “We talked about it and decided I would be the one to go. It was a pretty easy decision once we realized that’s what we needed to do. It wasn’t a nasty process, and I’m proud of both of us.” (Bonobos is now a Trunk Club wholesaler. “We’re big fans of the brand, and we have a great relationship with them,” Spaly says.)

Not long after Spaly left Bonobos, Anthos Capital paid an undisclosed sum to acquire Trunk Club from founder Joanna Van Vleck, who exited. Spaly was the first, last and only candidate for the top spot, says Anthos managing partner and co-founder Bryan Kelly. In fact, the firm finalized the Trunk Club deal contingent on Spaly coming in as CEO.

“Brian is an amazingly talented entrepreneur and leader who is also passionate about fashion. The overlap of all those things made him the perfect choice,” Kelly says. “He’s somebody who gets the ethos of the customer–what they need at a core level and how to provide that service. Trunk Club revenues are up more than 100 times since we invested, and I’m confident it will be a major retail company that is highly disruptive to the bricks-and-mortar model.”

Trunk Club HQ stretches across three floors of a brick-and-timber loft space originally constructed in 1896 on the edge of Chicago’s River North district; it’s walking distance from the historic Merchandise Mart, once the nexus of the wholesale goods business. Spaly looked at dozens of potential sites in downtown Chicago before finding this spot, which is not only aesthetically and geographically appealing but also large enough to contain 160-plus employees, 15 dedicated styling areas, an array of merchandise, a 5,000-square-foot rooftop deck and the pièce de résistance: a 40-foot-long bar stocked with draft beers, premium wines and craft liquors from sponsor partners such as the venerable Italian brewery Peroni.

“I have a belief that ugly, gray cubicles, carpet, fluorescent lights and drop ceilings–all the accoutrements of your typical office space–suck the life out of you,” Spaly says. “We care a lot about how our space looks. We care a lot about making customers feel excited and energized by being here. It doesn’t look anything like any other company, and that’s what we’re striving for.”

Only about 20 percent of Trunk Club customer interactions unfold on-site, however. The overwhelming majority of members live outside of Chicago, mostly in communities where access to contemporary men’s fashion is slim to none. All customers are paired with individual stylists, who are encouraged to foster those personal relationships; for example, by including a handwritten thank-you note in each trunk.

The potential for capturing fashion-conscious clients outside of metropolitan areas represents Trunk Club’s greatest threat to the retail status quo. “Trunk Club are pioneers. They invented this space. They took the concept of the Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper and moved it online,” says Bernie Yoo, co-founder of New York City-based Bombfell, which offers similar personal-stylist subscription services but targets less affluent males. “They’ve built a great business online that’s similar to what is being done off-line. It’s one-on-one, high-touch and interactive.”

The biggest challenge facing Trunk Club is what happens if and when those off-line incumbents–or even established e-commerce giants–move into the virtual stylist space, Spaly admits. But he’s confident that Trunk Club’s commitment to delivering a customer experience tailored expressly for the collective male psyche will never go out of fashion.

“Everybody in this world of innovative apparel and retail startups is talking about how to be relevant and exciting for customers in a world where the perfection and ease of online commerce will ultimately dominate most purchases. Where will you go and still pay a premium for a different kind of experience? That’s the only way we can compete long-term with an Amazon or a Nordstrom if they come into our space,” Spaly says. “For us, it’s about using technology to make the experience super-simple.

You can text your stylist ‘trunk me’ or ‘send trunk,’ and we know exactly what you mean. That’s the heart of where we’re innovating.”

Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com