Nifti, a Google Ventures-backed shopping startup which first debuted its price tracking and alerts service this summer, is today making the move to mobile. The company is launching its iOS application by the same name, while also offering a slightly different take from what Nifti does online. On the web, the company’s idea is one of a smarter wishlist where you can track historical price changes over time, and be notified when the price drops below a price point you designate yourself.
Meanwhile, though Nifti’s mobile app also includes price history and tracking, it’s also about offering you an easy-to-access portal where you can shop and compare items across different stores without having to continually switch between different shopping apps or mobile websites.
Explains co-founder Nathan Sharp, the new product still serves Nifti’s larger purpose. “At it’s core, the Nifti app is still about making it as easy for a shopper to act on price changes as it is for merchants to change prices,” he says, noting that the release has been timed to hit ahead of the holiday shopping season, where prices can often fluctuate wildly.
After installation, app users will be able to access a “Stores” tab where they’ll see in real-time what other Nifti users are tracking at the over 700 retailers the company supports – a number which is up from the 400 it was watching earlier this summer. This makes the app something of a user-generated catalog of popular items, which is not an entirely different concept from a number of trendy shopping apps on the App Store today, like Wanelo, for a representative example.
But where Wanelo and others tend to be focused on fashion and home goods (and heavily used by younger women), Nifti is not limited to a particular demographic in theory, given its broad support for anything you can bookmark from the web using the browser bookmarklet, as well as its massive list of supported retailers.
Nifti is also a bit more practical in nature than the current crop of mobile shopping apps are, which are sometimes more about aspirational favoriting than real-world conversions. Services like Pinterest are slowly moving into this area too, having recently launched price alerts and now promotional pins which the company hopes will push its users from just “collecting” and sharing to actually making purchases.
But Nifti’s app, on the other hand, is giving you the data and other information you need to push you through and take that final step. Not only does it track the history of an item’s pricing over time, you can now use the app to sort items by date, price, or total discount to see where all the best deals are right now. And while you’re browsing through a store, you can also click a plus sign to begin to track any item found on that retailer’s website within Nifti’s app.
Elsewhere in the app, you can view your wishlist – or watchlist, rather – of saved items, where you can quickly tell whether prices are trending up or down thanks to brightly colored red and green buttons with percentage changes and new prices next to old, also color-coded for easy reference.
The company currently generates revenue through affiliate deals with the retailers, but over time it wants to broaden those relationships to help retailers better understand their potential customers’ behavior. “We want digital marketing to be less about grabbing your attention, and more about understanding your intention–and that starts with knowing exactly what you want and how much you want to pay,” Sharp explains.
The app was quietly released on iTunes earlier this month for testing purposes, and is currently climbing the “Lifestyle” charts on iTunes where it’s closing in on a top 50 position today. (It’s #62 at the time of writing, per App Annie’s data).
Nifti’s mobile release comes at a time when one of its top competitors, Decide.com, has exited the market. Ebay acquired the company, which had raised $16.5 million, in September. Decide had been doing much of the same thing in terms of watching historical price drops over time in order to alert users as to when is the right time to buy. But the company fumbled by starting to charge users for the service too soon – before it had generated significant consumer adoption. It was having trouble scaling its user numbers as a paid service, and was not generating the revenues it would have needed to continue to scale.
While investors at the time told us that everyone made money on the deal, and it was a “positive outcome,” there was little talk of specific deal terms because it wasn’t a sizable kind of exit investors want to tout. So Nifti’s decision to remain free for consumers is a good one – especially as it moves to mobile where paid apps are generally on their way out.
Unfortunately for Nifti and apps like it, not all retailers have been quick to adapt their sites for the influx of mobile users. That can leave users who are trying to checkout frustrated with the experience to the point of giving up and abandoning their shopping cart. But assuming Nifti takes off, the company could begin to work with retailers to better streamline and optimize mobile checkout for consumers further down the road. However, Sharp says that for now, checkout will have to take place on retailer websites, but they’re working on making the experience more seamless for end users so they could checkout in the app itself. Ultimately, Nifti plans to offer users the choice of either app or web.