If you’re anything like me, this scenario may be somewhat familiar: You’re standing in the aisle of your local supermarket, or Walgreens, and you’re looking to buy a particular type of product, be it peanut butter or shaving cream or shampoo, yet you don’t have any particular allegiance to one brand over another.
Confronted with the often overwhelming abundance of choice, you may hold the product up to the light or quickly read the back label, hoping some divine intervention will guide you to the right choice. In the end, you probably make a choice based on appearance, brand familiarity, or something you read somewhere once. (When, really, you have no idea what the difference is between Scope and Listerine, other than minty-ness.)
Now, in spite of feeling fortunate to have surfeit options baked into my shopping experience, I often find myself asking, “do we really need 40 different brands of deodorant to choose from?” The market might respond by saying something annoying like, “competition is good, bro”, but I ask, if we’re going to have this level of choice, is there a better way to be making product decisions other than by oft-times arbitrary selection criteria?
A young New York City-based startup is trying to answer that question in the affirmative. Consmr, besides not liking all of its vowels, is attempting to build the Yelp, or Rotten Tomatoes, of consumer packaged goods (CPGs). While at this point Consmr may not be able to offer you a thoroughly detailed treatise on the value of Scope over Listerine, that’s the bent of its long-term goal.
Consmr Founder and CEO Ryan Charles left his full-time job at Zagat (where he was the head of mobile and was responsible for its partnerships with Foodspotting and Foursquare) at the end of March to pursue his new startup. Why?
The genesis dates back to the height of the recession, he says, when a lot of we consumers became more discerning (and price conscious) in regard to their daily product decisions. While there’s been tremendous growth in web research on CPGs, the sources for this information are fragmented. There’s no Yelp or LibraryThing, or sites taking advantage of crowdsourced data or social integration to help you choose which product is right for you. And he has a good point; all-in-one sources for movie, TV, book, and restaurant recommendations (to name a few) are alive and well, so why not for CPGs?
While the idea is an appealing one, the question is, of course, why one should spend time writing reviews of toothpaste? What incentive is there? Consmr isn’t going to bribe you to write reviews, but it will give you badges. Whether an average day-to-day user is browsing for the answer to a question like “what’s the best green-friendly laundry detergent?” or a micro-expert (like an ice cream blogger) wants to share their particular experience, the initial incentive is a game-ified user experience: Anyone can compete to earn badges that Consmr calls “flair” (a la Office Space), or “level-up” in reputation, or become a category expert.
The appeal of being a category expert, Charles says, is that category experts are featured prominently on the site, including being recommended as someone to “follow”. Thus, users are incentivized to write longer reviews, to take time with their descriptions, in the effort to become a product expert — a veritable lord or lady of the detergents.
Consmr has been in the process, like every other data-based recommendation engine before it, of gathering user reviews and building a sizable dataset. In the next few weeks, it plans to add recommendations based on products a user has rated highly and trends it picks up in your Consmr activity. (Similar in conceit to Netflix’s recommendation engine.) Consmr is also hard at work on its mobile apps — an equally important piece of the in-store recommendations puzzle.
And, today, the startup added to its feature set by forging a partnership with Gary Vaynerchuk, the popular author, business guru, and “sommelier of social media”. Beginning today, all of Vaynerchuk’s Daily Grape and Wine Library TV reviews will be added to the site, which those who follow the wine guy will be able to see daily in their personal feed.
“I get thrown a lot of stuff on a daily basis and sometimes my intuition just tells me a platform is worth trying out”, Vaynerchuk told TechCrunch. “I’m thrilled to speculate at times with new platforms and Consmr hit my radar as something that was worth trying”.
Consmr launched officially to the world back in June and is in the process of raising funding. The site still has some work to do on bits and pieces of its design and will require some serious adoption before product recommendations become flawless, but the idea could have legs. Rating different types of peanut butter is surprisingly addicting.
Let us know what you think.