The future may be mobile, but trying to shop at an online retailer from your phone is often a surefire way to get a headache.
Sure, online stores are now much better about offering mobile-optimized sites than they were a few years ago — but even then, plugging in your credit card information on your phone’s keyboard is a pain, and quickly buying multiple items from multiple stories is basically out of the question. There are a few good experiences to be had (I’ve used Amazon’s mobile apps plenty of times, and they generally work well). But it’s the exception, not the rule.
That’s why Kima Labs built TapBuy, a new mobile app (and platform) with a focus on making the mobile shopping experience as good as it should be. You enter your credit card information once, and can use it across multiple stores. There’s no shopping cart — you just tap and buy, without having to go through a lengthy purchase/shipping flow. You can download their first app, TapBuy Deals for iOS, right here.
Kima Labs was started by a team of ex-Amazon employees, including CEO Blake Scholl, who did Amazon’s first AdWords purchase way back when and later headed Amazon’s global search engine marketing. The company has raised $770k from Naval Ravikant, SV Angel, Owen Van Natta and former execs from Amazon, Facebook, Google and Wal-Mart.
When you first fire up TapBuy Deals, you’ll see a stream of discounted items the service has found online (it’s constantly crawling various retailers and detecting price changes, so it’ll even catch things that aren’t advertised). You can filter by the type of deal you want to see, and you can delete retailers you aren’t interested in. The service will support top brands like Gap, Target, and Old Navy.
The first time you buy something you’ll have to enter your credit card information and shipping address. From then on, the buying flow simply requires you to enter a 4-digit PIN (which is used to protect you in case you lose your phone) — the payment and shipping information is handled by TapBuy automatically, so you can literally purchase something (even from a retailer you’ve never shopped with) in a few seconds. There are some other niceties included as well — for instance, the app will automatically enter any relevant coupon codes it can find online for the site you’re ordering from.
The interesting bit about TapBuy’s technology is that it doesn’t have special API access to each of these retailer sites. Instead, the company has essentially built a ‘browser in the cloud’ — each time you buy something using the app, a computer program on TapBuy’s servers will actually click through the retailer’s checkout process, filling in your information as appropriate. This sounds a little goofy, but it has a key benefit: merchants don’t have to do any work to become ‘TapBuy-enabled’, so the company can onboard them more quickly. Scholl adds that this actually took a lot of work to get working reliably at scale.
The one caveat: at launch some of the items seen in the TapBuy Deals app aren’t actually TapBuy enabled — in other words, you’ll have to go through the retailer’s normal website to actually buy them. But Scholl says they’re working hard to make all of them work with the streamlined buying experience.
And this is just the start. In the future, the company will also be releasing more apps that include this functionality, and third-party developers will be able to integrate it as well. Android fans can expect to start seeing TapBuy-enabled apps next year.