Disclosure: Neil Mayle, the CEO & President of DottedPair (which owns BrowseGoods), is a family friend.
Last year at eTail, Rudy Patero from Fry talked about how Web 2.0 technologies could be used in the retail area. There was a lot of hype about everything Web 2.0, but not many etailers were taking advantage of this concept. A year later, a lot has changed. Many shopping search engines have implemented a newer look and feel taking advantage of AJAX, user generated content is everywhere in the form of text and video reviews, and there are a ton of social shopping experiments popping up.
Today, I’m excited to break the news that BrowseGoods has launched. BrowseGoods has developed a new interface for visual shopping. I hate to dumb it down, but the easiest way to describe it is Google maps for shopping; BrowseGoods allows a user to zoom in/out and pan around by clicking on a section and then dragging the catalog. I can’t do the service justice through words…you just have to go to BrowseGoods and start playing with it.
So why am I so excited about this service? Because I think the current shopping search sites and the majority of retailers do a poor job of presenting shoppers with many options. Most sites make a user scroll through 10 product listings and then hit the ‘next’ button. This is fine if the user knows exactly what he is looking for, but is terrible for browsing. Furthermore, as displayed recently at Shop.org in Orlando during Phil Terry’s UX session, the average web shopper doesn’t click the ‘next’ button (similar to the average web searcher not going past the first page or 2 of results). In other words, users aren’t exposed to the wealth of products on a particular site, but rather only to the top 10 results in a particular category, which are often only listed because a couple merchants paid the most to the shopping site.
BrowseGoods allows a user to intuitively browse through a large catalog of products and control his or her own experience. This is very similar to the offline shopping experience where the store has organized products into different departments, then different aisles, then different shelves, then finally different sections on those shelves.
With BrowseGoods, if I’m looking for a watch, it’s the same type of experience. I click on the watch department, then I zoom in on Men’s, then I pan over and zoom in on ‘casual’, then ‘leather banded’, then the brand (Seiko, Diesel, Disney, Kenneth Cole, etc.). Once in this section, I can zoom in even more to see the individual watches and then pan around to find the one I like. At any time, I can click on a specific watch to see the details. The screen that pops up allows me to click through to buy, email the item, or save it. If you save an item and zoom out, you’ll see a flag indicating it, like a pinpoint on a map.
I’m the typical guy. I hate shopping. If I know the exact products I need, I’m ok because I can get in and get out – whether I’m in a store or online. If I need to browse for a product, though, I lose patience after a couple minutes – whether I’m in a store or online.
For example, looking for a watch on Amazon means that I click on Jewelry & Watches on the homepage (doing a search for ‘watches’ doesn’t help much), arrive at this page (where I can hardly find watches), then click on Men’s watches, then casual watches, then leather banded watches which puts me on this page with 1200+ options, the first 24 of which are displayed. This page does have multiple refinement options like material, brand, and price, but it doesn’t let me quickly just get a visual of all 1200 watches. Even if I refine one more level and choose to see only Timex watches, Amazon still needs to display 7 pages of products. If I choose to click through to see all the watches page by page, it’s going to get old really quickly. Going back up one level to the leather banded casual Men’s watches, there are a number of brands like Zeno-Watch Basel, Swiss Legend, Invicta, etc. which I’ve never heard of and as a busy shopper would probably skip over.
Now let’s look at the BrowseGoods experience for watches. Once I pick the department, I’m shown a 50,000 foot view of the products in that department. In other words, the products are completely ‘out of focus’, but I can see Men’s/Women’s plus some different sections like Casual/Fashion/Sport/By Movement/By Feature. When I click on the Men’s side with my magnifying glass, I can then see more levels of detail. I can then click on the page and drag it around until I see what I want…in this case, Casual watches. I can then either click on the section to zoom in, hit the ‘+’, or use the slider on the page. Zooming in a couple levels, I now feel like I’m seeing a 3,000 foot view of the Men’s casual watches. I zoom in one more level and can now start to see the details of all the watches. From here, it’s a pleasant browsing experience because I’m quickly able to pan and zoom in/out to find the types of watches I’m interested in…almost like quickly walking down an aisle in a department store. I ended up discovering Invicta watches just by panning through the section.
The company also offers a search option, but I’ve had much more fun playing around with the browsing component.
So how does BrowseGoods make money? Currently the site is an Amazon affiliate and takes a revenue share of any product sold. BrowseGoods will join other affiliate programs and continue along this path. At some point, BrowseGoods will also look into the potentially more lucrative pay per click model offering sponsored listings to merchants who want a bit more exposure.
While that’s a nice first step, what the company isn’t talking about is partnering with merchants to offer them a visual shopping version of their catalog. For example, BrowseGoods could ‘power’ visual.timex.com, visual.anntaylor.com, visual.autotrader.com, etc. and take a small % of sales. I think this is a much more interesting business model.
BrowseGoods has a lot to work on:
-users aren’t always taken to the area clicked on (but rather just zoom into the center of the section)
-there are only 4 departments
-there aren’t filtering options – the shoes section needs a size filter, a price filter would be nice
-the product details could be expanded
-there are no product reviews or ratings
-it’s hard to close the product details pop (you have to pan to find the ‘x’)
but the beta is an impressive leap in the right direction. Yes, I’m biased as I know the founder, but this ranks up there with the wow factor I first experienced when I saw ShopWiki’s color search and Like.com’s likeness search.