PSFK Labs recently caught up with Tim Weingarten who is the co-founder of community-based shopping site The Hunt (that we recently covered here). The Hunt helps users locate beloved fashion pieces that they don’t know how to find online by leveraging a passionate community of fellow shoppers. We talked with Tim about how shopping communities are making the online shopping experience more real by working together to find the best products for their peers, all without charging a commission. Check out the conversation below.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Every day 250 million photos are uploaded and shared across mobile apps and the web. Currently there is no way to track down the items, looks and styles seen in these photos.
How are you bringing communities together and making product discovery special?
By making it fun and rewarding to both ask for and give help in tracking down and putting together outfits it becomes much more engaging for everyone involved. For products like fashion and decor that are purchased due to their visual nature rather than due to their “specs” like consumer electronics, the expertise of a community can be more effective as a source of discovery in terms of finding things you didn’t know you wanted or were looking for. Community based discovery works best when text based search works poorly – ie at the very top of the purchase funnel.
How is curation, social based and algorithm based recommendations changing how people discover products?
Curation is a great way to separate the signal from the noise. It allows normal people to see what tastemakers/curators think is cool and interesting but on the downside you are going to see what the curator is interested in which might not match up well with your current intent at any given point of time. On the other end of the spectrum, personalization (which tends to be based on an algorithm) sounds appealing but in reality recommendation algorithms aren’t very good expect for maybe books and movies. So for e-commerce personalization to be effective either the algorithms need to improve or sites/apps need a new set of signals. Recommendations from people (friends or strangers) tend to be best when there is no economic incentive and they are making a suggestion based on personal style/taste and you can judge their style/taste easily through their past suggestions.
How are social networks helping shoppers decide what to buy?
They can help with discovery – suggesting products or brands you weren’t necessarily looking for and they can help with consideration – getting input and feedback from friends and family on a set of alternatives before you make a purchase.