Back in July of last year, we wrote about a New York City-based startup, called Consmr, which was attempting to build the Yelp, or Rotten Tomatoes of consumer goods. There’s now more web research on consumer goods than ever before, but few resources that use crowdsourced data and social integration to recommend the right product. There are cool sites like Fixya, but opportunity for a service that provides ratings and reviews of consumer packaged goods.
At the time, Consmr was just starting out and to really up its value proposition, it was focused on becoming a data-vore and growing its user base to increase the quality of its recs before adding a component. Of course, for a service like Consmr, it’s all about the aisle experience — being able to whip out your phone at the point of (in)decision. So, today Consmr added a big piece to the puzzle, launching its iPhone app, which is now powered by over 100K user ratings.
It was smart for the startup to wait until it had gained some traction before diving into mobile. But the team thinks that the service is there now, as it has the pieces in place which makes its primary iPhone interaction, barcode scanning, a more valuable tool.
There are some 30 or 40 iPhone apps that offer barcode and QR code scanning, all with various complementary features. Some mobile couponing apps offer scanners. But Consmr Founder and CEO Ryan Charles (who is the former head of mobile at Zagat) thinks that the app will have a leg up because it comes with a product recommendation engine built in. Consumers can download the app and take out their phones at the grocery or drugstore and instantly see reviews.
With the iPhone app, users can also search or browse by criteria, filter results by hundreds of attributes, like gluten-free, sensitive skin, or curly hair, automatically view suggested alternatives for products, or which of their friends likes a particular product.
So, after scanning the barcode, one has the ability to sort through reviews and ratings based on quality, effectiveness, health and nutrition as they’re standing there in the aisle holding it, and leave a review on the spot.
Of course, sifting through products to review can be time-consuming and tedious, so it’s been important for the site to offer its users incentive. Although it experimented with badges and “flair” during its beta, Charles says that users were more motivated by sharing product experiences (a la Yelp) than they were in receiving badges or becoming the “Mayor of Toothpaste.”
The startup is offering that element of gamification by allowing user to compete to become category experts. By writing reviews in different categories, you can become an expert in chips and dip, or frozen foods, and once you become an expert, you and your reviews are featured throughout the app, including a dedicated section that only displays those with PhDs in products. The startup is focused on rewarding its power users just like Yelp does, with cool swag and events.
As to how it’s making money? Consmr intends to monetize through special offers on products. So, a user might scan a product and receive a coupon for a discount on that product. Charles says that the team is currently building the brand relationships that will power this functionality, but, for now, the focus is on offering a great product for consumers.
It’s definitely on the way, and the service’s new mobility is a big step in the right direction.