Startup Story: Shoppers Who Shop Together Save Together with CrossShopper
Not so long ago, a shopper rarely had decisions to make beyond which store to visit and whether the assistant seemed knowledgeable enough once they got there. The only choice then was whether to make the purchase or not.
Today, online shopping has firmly established itself as the go-to means of acquiring new products and services. But its promise of making the whole process simpler and quicker is far from realized. Paradoxically, we now have more work to do when we shop; we face a paralyzing multitude of choices. We feel the need to read endless reviews. Watch videos. See what other people think and then—once we make a choice—we must decide which of many e-stores can offer us the best mix of price and performance.
It’s stressful, time-consuming, and it can lead to almost immediate post-click buyer’s remorse. Did I pay too much? Did others get a better deal? Should I cancel my order and search some more?
Hearing friends and colleagues report similar frustration with online shopping, Marie-Cécile de Faucigny had an idea. Why not harness the real-life experience of an entire community of consumers to provide collaborative, crowd-sourced price comparisons, uninfluenced by vendors, and personalized to your search request? She built her plan for CrossShopper, a crowd-sourced, shopper-powered price comparison service based on a simple concept: Tell us what you need, and we’ll quickly deliver the latest and best price others have found for that same item.
Of course, if you insist, you could still make the conventional online gamble. Spend hours searching for the best available price for an item that might not be in stock, from a vendor you hope you can trust, with delivery in a reasonable time and at least before you no longer need it. But for de Faucigny, it makes more sense to take out the guesswork and save your time and sanity with a simple, straightforward approach: “I just thought it would be useful to have a website where you said what you wanted and others would actually get you the best deal!”
That thinking puts CrossShopper in line with familiar sites similarly built upon crowd-sourced wisdom and experience, such as Wikipedia, Waze, and TripAdvisor. The service is driven by people rather than technology, powered not by algorithms or AI but by up-to-date information from a real human community. The price comparisons are freely provided and avoid potential bias from sponsorship and affiliation. And in exchange for sharing their knowledge, CrossShopper contributors gain points they can convert into cash or vouchers. It’s a community of shoppers and their shopping facts and figures that’s growing exponentially, building some 350,000 members in its first two years, providing up to 30,000 recommendations per month, and offering ratings for more than 14,000 seller websites.
De Faucigny notes that she does have to face issues common to large-scale, distributed services. She must manage a rapidly growing mass of content, scale computing and storage resources efficiently, and optimize service availability and performance. CrossShopper uses Microsoft Azure to help achieve those goals while keeping costs low and ongoing investments predictable. Marie-Cécile also expects her chosen cloud platform technology to support smooth expansion into new markets as she takes the service beyond initial operations in France and Belgium.
CrossShopper has already enjoyed much success and media interest. De Faucigny’s advice to startups looking to similarly turn a good idea into a great business? Trust your instincts. Find ways to make it happen, and other like-minded people will join you, use your product, and contribute to your success.