Today, with more product information and data on consumer goods living on the Web than ever before, Consumr launched in 2011 to give average Joes like you and me a better way to make sense of that data and find the best products. In an effort to become the Rotten Tomatoes or Yelp of consumer products, Consumr has been building a platform and mobile apps that allow users to create and peruse reviews on any product — written by other buyers — while strolling down the aisle in their local supermarket.
The startup’s app allows users to both search and browse its crowdsourced data on products by way of keyword search or actually scan barcodes with their phone to view customer reviews. Founded by the former head of mobile at Zagat, Ryan Charles, and CTO Noah Zitsman, the app’s clean design and clear use case were recognized in the mobile category at the 2013 Webby Awards and have managed a 4.5-star rating on the App Store.
Over the last year, however, Consumr has been focused on expanding its potential use case and developing a more personalized recommendation system and user experienced. In the first case, on Black Friday 2012, Charles says, he was lured into buying a laptop that seemed like a great deal. However, it turned out that it was a lemon, and was slower than the laptop he had replaced.
In these cases, it would make perfect sense for users to be able to turn to Consumr for electronics reviews, but the startup was initially focused exclusively on packaged goods. With the long-term goal of building a better shopping guide for all products, Consumr has since expanded from the world of impulse buys into more considered purchases, including appliances and electronics. For those categories that don’t yet have enough reviews, Consumr offers reviews from outlets like Best Buy to fill in the blanks.
More recently, the startup has begun to add more personalization features to its platform and app, surfacing categories users are likely to be interested in based on their tastes and habits. If you don’t own a pet and don’t want to be shown pet care products, then presto, Consumr analyzes your taste profile and prioritizes its recommendations accordingly. Users can specify the categories they’re interested in, as well, so that new parents can customize their experience so that baby, toys and grocery products are the only categories to appear in their feed.
The startup has also developed its own proprietary measurement technology, Charles said, which allows it to provide better insight into the quality of ratings — and those behind the ratings. Initially called RateScore, Consumr is able to, over time, assign a score to each user based on a variety of factors, including how many ratings they provide, how helpful those reviews are, and so on. The goal, the founder says, is to help shoppers better understand the historical quality of a rater’s content to ultimately provide them with better (and more trustworthy) recommendations.
For review platforms like Consumr and Yelp, the key in the early going is coverage. The more product reviews, the more utility it provides, and the more stickiness it has as a result. Charles tells us that the platform recently reached one million product ratings through its mobile app and has been doubled its ratings in the past six months. Furthermore, there are now more than 3.3 million products in its database.
As the platform and its coverage grow, the key to a review platform maintaining its upward trajectory shifts to limiting the noise (and increasing the value of its product information), and monetizing its data. In relation to the growing potential for noise pollution, that’s why Consumr has been building its “RateScore” feature.
While the Consumr founders believe they’ve made progress on the big question they set out to answer — “what’s the best product?” — the next logical questions from most users are, “where can I buy it?” and “Where can I find the best price?” To begin providing answers and improve the discover experience, Consumr recently added a price comparison feature so that it now shows local and online prices for over one million products.
It’s tools like these that have begun to put Consumr on the radar of some familiar names. Case in point: Consumer Reports has recently been bidding to purchase the word “Consumr” within Google AdWords presumably so it can advertise against searches for the company, the founder tells us. On the one hand, it’s frustrating because the young company isn’t in a position to get into a bidding war with Consumer Reports, but on the other hand it’s a point of validation, considering that one of the biggest names in the space is willing to put money down on people searching for the company — or people misspelling consumer, either way.
As to what’s next? Charles tells us that the team is looking to refine its natural language processing in an effort to provide better search, automated extraction and scoring of particular product features. The idea is to allow people to see how high a particular razor scores in terms of “durability” or view ratings on the “sound quality” of a TV, for example. Look for this functionality to start rolling out soon.
Users can also potentially look for Consumr to build out some sort of integration or app to leverage the wave of interest in wearable technology, although the founders aren’t ready to share details as of yet.
Consumr has raised $550K to date from Lerer Ventures, IA Ventures and MESA+ and will be looking to add more coin to its coffers in the coming months.
For more, find Consumr here.