The Internet has changed how we shop: We have more options, more information about those options, and we never have to interact with another human in order to complete a transaction. But while shopping online may be less physically demanding than going store-to-store, the overwhelming number of choices online can make it a mentally exhausting experience. The Operator app wants to fix that, bringing customer-sales reps to the online marketplace, according to TechCrunch. The creators of Operator are betting that many online shoppers will choose old-fashioned customer service over reading customer reviews.
Operator is the brainchild of Uber cofounder Garrett Camp and former Zynga executive Robin Chan, who have been developing the Operator app for two years, says TechCrunch. Registered users can make a request for a type of item (like “coffeemaker” or “running shoes”) and then an online sales representative (called an “Operator”) will jump into a text conversation with the user to hunt down relevant products from all over the Internet. Operators are paired with requests based on expertise in a certain product category or affiliation with a brand or store. If the user likes what the Operator suggested, they can click the “I’ll take it” button to buy it immediately.
The so-called Operators are a mix of people employed by the app, in-store sales representatives, and brand representatives. Operator doesn’t want to replace the highly efficient, no-frills system that online shopping titans have built. “If you can buy it on Amazon, buy it on Amazon,” Chan tells TechCrunch. Operator is for “anything where you’d want someone to give you some judgement if it’s the right fit for you, where you’d value their opinion.”
This chat-heavy shopping experience is similar to the mobile shopping plans Facebook unveiled in March, in which users of its Messenger app can talk to customer-service reps, receive receipts, and make returns, all in one message stream.
The app is still in private beta, but you can request an invite on the Operator homepage.