Inventing A Data Play For Your Retail Shopping App

Building a software product for the retail industry means delivering value to shoppers and retailers at the same time–while collecting insights on the backend that you can sell back to the client. BevyUp, a retail startup founded by former Bing engineers, says their goal is to collect non-binary emotional information about products. “What we’re doing here is bridging the gap between web analytics and CRM,” says Chris Rallo, the company’s COO. “Now you know purchase intent–why somebody did what they did, beyond the straight data.”

Inventing A Data Play For Your Retail Shopping App

Pleasing one group of users is tough; pleasing two groups is tougher. BevyUp is a service for retailers that nails both, allowing two or more customers to shop online together, while creating insights the retailer can use to improve their online merchandising. Here’s what their product can teach other e-retail entrepreneurs–particularly those designing an app for our Co.Labs & Target Retail Accelerator. (Plug alert: submissions end April 30!)


The Retail Problem They’re Solving

Buying stuff online is an isolated process: There’s rarely anyone keeping you company as you punch in your credit card number or prune your shopping cart. But that norm belies the fact that many online purchases involve more than one interested party. Whether it’s apparel, bridal, gifts, real estate or anything else, co-shopping is an important process that just doesn’t work well on the web.

What The Solution Does For Users

The BevyUp service allows two or more people to shop an online store together. BevyUp adds co-browsing, communication and sentiment tagging capabilities to any e-commerce site that partners with them. The tools are fully customizable for a white-label effect.

Benefits For Retailers

Co-browsing means the shopping experience is less isolated than before; even as shoppers browse different parts of the page, they can still keep chatting. “We can keep that [product] discussion going from one corner of the store to another,” says Brian Toba, VP of product of BevyUp. “That discussion is going to enable a person who couldn’t make a purchase decision at the beginning to get help from a friend and follow through with the purchase,” which both shoppers and marketers want.

But the real value is ascribing buyer emotions to certain product data. “It allows us to start tagging and saving things by emotion,” says Toba, “and these are emotions that make sense for the kind of shopping you’re doing.” Retailers can set their own custom tags with their own emotional variants, and since all BevyUp’s tools appear in the page margins, it doesn’t screw up pre-existing site designs.

Props To The In-Store Experience

Toba says the team is cognizant of the benefits of shopping IRL, and tries to reproduce them on the web. “When this experience starts to feel very close to brick and mortar is when we add video,” he says. “We allow this communication to be as engaging as the user needs it to be, which allows us to do [online shopping] in a really rich environment where I can see your expressions: Your reactions, if you like something, if you’re shaking your head.”

Where BevyUp Came From

Some of the startup’s members were previously of Microsoft, where they launched the Bing search engine in 28 markets around the world. Others worked on infrastructure for and the Microsoft Store, and built video and VoIP technology for the Microsoft Lync platform, so communication, search and buying were already tangential to the areas of their expertise.


The Big Data Play

“All these interactions with the tags, the way that we’re navigating the website, and the actual purchases we make, are all being collected on the backend and organized so we can analyze them and provide actionable insights to the client,” says Toba. “We want the client to be able to think about each product by emotions. We’re not telling you ‘you have this many pageviews,’ or ‘you’re getting this much time on site.’ We’re telling you, the customer doesn’t like this ring because it doesn’t seem to have a good value for the price compared to these other rings.”

Toba says that information gives retailers the ability to personalize their site for the user, or for similar users, refine the way they list and advertise their products. The company says it helps retailers boost the four big metrics for e-commerce sales: time on site, page views, average order value and conversion rates.

The Takeaway: Co-Browsing Will Be Big

Toba says co-browsing might be the core of more retail apps to come. “For retail, it’s one of the biggest markets because of how the collaboration actually enhances the e-commerce experience,” he says. “During testing our users talked a lot about the travel industry–it’s a high-value purchase where there’s only one person making the decision, but there are frequently other people involved. At the same time, there are so many details, it has to be planned perfectly for everyone’s schedule, availability, and location. Co-browsing makes the shopper more effective and that’s great news for the market.”

Here you can find more information about submitting an app design to the Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator. If you’d like to read more about the retail apps, check out our other stories about The Future Of Retail.

[Image by Jenni from the block on Flickr]


About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs