Alexander Muse leads the team that built ShopSavvy into the world’s largest mobile shopping community, seeing the company through periods of rapid growth, impending acquisition, new funding, and now radically higher ambitions.
ShopSavvy is the most popular mobile shopping platform in the world, with more than 40 million downloads. Available on the iPhone, Android, Nokia and Windows smartphones, ShopSavvy enables consumers to scan the UPC, EAN or QR barcodes of products they want to buy and do immediate, in-store price comparisons with local and online retailers. Users also can find product reviews and other relevant information about scanned products.
MO: Why do you think that ShopSavvy is the most popular mobile shopping platform in the world?
Alexander: First, it saves people money. Now more than ever, consumers are looking for the best deal, and apps like ShopSavvy help them find those best deals. Second, it saves time. Retailing has never been more competitive, with all of the physical stores and online options out there. Consumers needed a way to gather together their options quickly and reliably, and ShopSavvy does that for them. Third, ShopSavvy provides information that consumers want in the form of product information and reviews, and it does it at the very moment the information’s most needed: at the point of sale.
MO: What new features have been added to ShopSavvy5? How will these changes impact the user experience?
Alexander: The big news from ShopSavvy 5 is our Wallet feature. ShopSavvy Wallet allows users to make mobile purchases with just one tap from dozens of major retailers including Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom, Toys ‘R’ Us, JC Penney and Home Depot. ShopSavvy Wallet users who scan an item in a store and see a better deal online can purchase it immediately without ever leaving ShopSavvy. Unlike other online shopping systems, ShopSavvy’s neutral search results enable consumers to compare prices from a wide range of retailers.
MO: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Alexander: I am not exactly that great at taking advice, but one ironic piece of advice I remember was given to by Ben Silberman, one of the co-founders of Pinterest, during a panel discussion at SXSW where he explained, “Don’t take too much advice. Most people who have a lot of advice to give, with a few exceptions, generalize whatever they did. Every company carves its own path, and you are under pressure to make your startup look like the last successful company everyone remembers.”
MO: How do you plan to transform ShopSavvy from a shopping application to an all-encompassing shopping community?
Alexander: Communities are built around common interests, and they grow through sharing. At ShopSavvy, we’ve built up an amazing amount of product information from some 40,000 retailers, and millions of people know we have that information. But how do they share it? Our challenge is to help them do that. We laid the groundwork for the socialization of ShopSavvy with Product Cloud, our Big Data solution for real-time social product data. On the user side, we launched SavvyListings, which lets users list their own items for sale. A User Account feature was the next step toward community, allowing the uploading by users of prices, product photos and reviews. And with My Messages, you can read shopping related reminders, notices and updates. As we add features, we know we have to be where consumers are, so ShopSavvy is expanding from the smartphone to the tablet and the Web.
MO: What is a trend within your industry that you’re excited about?
Alexander: Retailers are beginning to realize that in-store experiences are too linear and too one-dimensional. They see that shoppers are entering stores only to find the same products for the same prices every other shopper experiences. And they are recognizing the value of retailers creating specialized experiences and the power of technology to do this.
Here’s an example: Last year ShopSavvy helped Macy’s develop its Backstage Pass program. Shoppers scan the red stars throughout the store to watch exclusive fashion tips and insider advice all specifically tailored to individual shoppers. Over time this “backstage” experience becomes more and more customized as Macy’s begins to build a more intimate relationship with the shopper.
Another example I like to use is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Founded in 1455, it’s the largest and oldest covered market in the world. There you’ll find shrewd sellers studying potential customers, starting conversations to determine their needs, negotiating with them, and making sales. You see that same level of customer connection and service today in family-owned shops in small towns across the country. We need to reconnect retailers, brands and consumers, and technology can help us do that.
MO: Can you talk about your plans to integrate the social graph into the ShopSavvy shopping experience?
Alexander: We all learn to shop from our friends and family – ultimately leveraging a shared ‘social intelligence.’ Combine your ready-made social graph available in the form of Facebook and Twitter with the mobile device you carry in your pocket and you are able to short circuit the shopping experience. Our hope is to allow ShopSavvy users to quickly and seamlessly connect with the people they know and love in order to enhance social intelligence regarding the products they want. Additionally, by overlaying access to experts outside of ones social graph (in many cases becoming an expert) our goal is to create a rich fabric of social intelligence any ShopSavvy user can draw from.