I’m an unabashed Amazon addict, but I’m not thrilled about the cluttered and unappealing visuals on the site. A new startup called Canopy with a team split between Toronto and San Francisco aims to vastly improve the Amazon window shopping experience, with a Pinterest-style sharing and networking experience that keeps the focus on commerce and enables users to actually buy the things they find with a minimum of fuss.
Canopy allows users to see product recommendations from other users, or to add their own via simple copy and paste of an Amazon link or with the help of a handy Chrome extension. Canopy then does a nice job of automatically formatting the product for a nice clean presentation like you might see on more design-focused marketplace sites like Fancy.
New members can follow their friends, and automatically follow an editor account when they sign up so that they aren’t greeted with absolutely nothing. The editor account is maintained by the founding team, and focuses on providing a human-curated collection of interesting products to highlight what’s possible on the platform. Users can also create their own collections, and recommend items to other users.
Early on in product development, Canopy focused on recommendations, but recently made it possible for users to add things to collections without having to also recommend it. That makes it easier to curate general lists of a type of item, say camping gear for instance, and still adds the benefit of allowing a user’s friends to recommend that product for them. This can inform buying decisions, and make Canopy about soliciting reviews and recommendations as well as helping users offer them up to others.
Canopy is invite-only for now, but there’s a good reason for that, according to co-founder Daniel Kaplan. “We still do want to manage the quality of the products on our site and keep things controllable in terms of how many users we have and what kind of information we’re tracking at this stage,” he said in an interview. Canopy’s intent isn’t just to be an Amazon re-skin; it’s about curating the now massive ecommerce site, and for now controlling membership helps further that aim. Asked why Canopy stuck to just Amazon as a source for its product recommendations, Kaplan explained it’s about keeping things consistent for users.
“[Limiting to Amazon] means not everything sold on the Internet can be recommended on Canopy, but it also means that we can be confident that when someone finds something they love on Canopy, it’ll be super easy for them to buy it,” he explained. “Competitors that allow users to post items from anywhere on the Internet (like Svpply, Pinterest, and Wanelo) have limitless catalogues, but this has some frustrating downsides. You can find an amazing product on Pinterest, for example, but if the link is broken or it’s sold out on Etsy, you come away from the experience disappointed.”
Amazon’s Affiliate program supplies Canopy with its revenue stream, and that’s going to provide plenty of fuel for it to grow. The startup notes that Wanelo has that as its primary business model, for instance, and recent valuation puts that company’s worth at around $100 million as of February.
Canopy has lots of new features in find that should help with user and product discovery, and with highlighting both user-generated and Canopy-curated collections, the team tells me. They’re definitely combining some hot current concepts in online shopping with sound design principles, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes next in terms of setting the site even further apart from similar, more established competitors.