Online Shopping Companion Zinc Save Automatically Finds Discounts For Puchases From Top Retailers

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Online shoppers now have a new tool to help them save money at checkout, without having to do much work at all. Recently launched shopping companion Zinc Save helps you automatically find the best price for the items in your shopping cart, and then pay however you want, including via Bitcoin or Dwolla.

The service, which works as either a Google Chrome extension or browser bookmarklet, is currently supported on major retailer’s sites, including Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, and Target.

The Y Combinator-backed startup, founded by three friends from MIT, Max Kolysh, Doug Feigelson and John Wang, emerged from an earlier idea they had about building an API for buying things online. “A lot of online retailers have APIs for data retrieval, but they don’t have APIs for actually making the purchase. We thought it would be cool to create that for them, as a third-party,” explains Kolysh.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 22.37.03The API, which is still being developed, would be useful for automating orders, or for affiliate sites that wanted their own universal shopping cart where shoppers could buy from a number of retailers all at once. But in the process of working on this API, the team decided to build their own services on top, in order to “dogfood” it, which led to the creation of the consumer-facing add-on Zinc Save.

Halfway through the Y Combinator program, the founders shifted to fully focus on Zinc Save instead.

“People just want to save money. They don’t want to spend half an hour before they make every purchase to find the best price, go on different sites, dig out their best rewards card, look on RetailMeNot for promo codes – there’s a whole process that could easily give you a couple bucks in savings,” says Kolysh. But no one has the time.

With Zinc Save, once installed in the browser, the service does that work for you. When you’re on the checkout page of your favorite online retailer, a new button will appear that lets you order via Zinc Save in order to receive a discount and pay through your preferred method, whether credit or debit card, Bitcoin or Dwolla.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 22.36.26

Sometimes, service finds you the same item from a network of vendors offering at least the same quality, or higher quality, than the item you were just about to buy from the retailer. Other times, it will simply find you a discount with that same retailer. Like the money-saving browser extension Honey, Zinc Save automatically locates promo codes, when applicable. But it can also hold orders to wait until the price drops, in other cases.

“For Amazon, we use dynamic price timing so we can figure out when is the best time to buy the product,” Kolysh says, noting that it would only hold the purchase if the shipping times and fees were not affected.

In the case of comparison shopping, some of the work is still manual, with the team themselves scouring the web to find the best deal, then placing the order which customers can monitor and manage through the Zinc Save dashboard. Even though that process might take longer on their side, for the shopper, the savings are immediate. Zinc Save will calculate the expected discount for the item at purchase, and continue to honor it even if they can’t find the expected savings.

Of course, the idea is that sometimes Zinc Save will find more savings than originally promised the consumer, and that’s where the service would begin to generate revenue.

Zinc Save also offers customers a centralized dashboard where they can track orders, and handle their customer service issues, including returns. In addition, the company has begun working to develop direct merchant partnerships, where merchants could be notified of incoming orders, and offer to fulfill those from their own inventory at better prices.

For now, however, Zinc Save is focused on online shopping, not mobile commerce, which has its own suite of issues.

The Palo Alto-based (for now) startup is a team of three, and bootstrapped except for the funding associated with YC. The Zinc Save extension is available for download here.

Image credit: Flickr user Giuseppe Leto Barone