Nifti, a new shopping service that helps you keep track of when items you want to buy go on sale, is officially opening its doors today, backed by $800,000 in seed funding from Google Ventures, Otto Capital and others. Essentially a price tracker at heart, Nifti’s service includes both a website and a browser bookmarklet that allows you to quickly add products from around the web to a list of watched items.
If the price on that item ever drops, you’re then alerted via email. In addition, Nifti’s service can also generate historical price graphs, which help you determine how the product’s current price compares to previous lows and highs.
Sharp explains that his interest in the e-commerce and shopping space stretches all the way back to 2007, when he interned in Google’s AdWords division ahead of attending the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Back then, he was fascinated with the way AdWords was able to capture users’ real-time shopping intent on the web, he says. But today, many companies are going in a different direction.
“People are focusing much more on implicit than they are on explicit purchase intent,” says Sharp. “There’s so much monitoring going on where companies are able to follow you around on the Internet, and based on what you click on, what you view, and what conversations you’re having on Facebook or Twitter, they’ll make an educated guess on what ads are relevant to you.”
At best these are just educated guesses, and at worst, some users feel like their privacy is being violated, Sharp explains. So he decided to create a system where purchase intent is obvious — on Nifti it’s about capturing the data around the exact items people are shopping for.
Of course, this is a crowded space. There are a number of services that allow shoppers to track price changes today. Some, like Decide.com, are targeted specifically at high-dollar retail categories like consumer electronics or household appliances, for example. Meanwhile, there are dozens of others out there like competitor Clipix, mobile app Slice, PriceGrabber, Google Alerts, third-party Amazon and big box retailer watchers like CamelCamelCamel, a variety of coupon finders, universal wish-list sites like Wishpot, and more.
One of the things that Nifti believes will help it stand out are its historical price graphs, which it can generate for nearly any site. At launch, Nifti supports over 400 online retailers, but claims it can easily add more with very little effort.
“If we truly are a repository for people’s shopping preferences across different sites and products, there’s a lot of different ways you can take that data,” says Sharp. “That’s more or less how we see ourselves. We’re not necessarily a price alerts system, or even a matchmaker. We’re a data company that’s trying to understand what people want before they buy it.”
That vision also speaks to Nifti’s long-term plan for revenue generation beyond the affiliate income it’s collecting today. Though Sharp did not go into detail on the specifics, the overall idea will involve personal recommendations based on the (hopefully) large data sets Nifti will eventually house. However, these will not be in the form of on-site ads or general promotions that could be found elsewhere on the web, but rather will be tailored to the individuals using the service. Users will also be in charge of how merchants can see and view their data and how they can then get in touch.
Following today’s official launch and funding news, Nifti will be immediately focused on expanding coverage and bringing its service to mobile, first with an iPhone app due out in a couple of months. In the meantime, interested users can sign up to use the service here.