One of the biggest question marks in online retail is how customers are going to find the things you want to sell them. In brick and mortar stores, it’s not a big deal: Customers walk in, they stroll around the store, and even if they came in to buy a particular item, they might see something else that catches their eye. But online, this is a tricky experience to replicate.
The Find, a new app launching on the iPad this week, is attempting to become the ultimate search engine for online products. It eschews the notion of social shopping and taking cues from friends online. Instead, it tries to use your past shopping behavior and personal preferences to inform the results you see, and then track your purchases once you make them.
Here’s a common problem: Let’s say I want to buy a cocktail dress online. I probably start out with some general assumptions, like I know that I want it to be red and knee-length and within a certain price range. Beyond that, I’m probably looking for some inspiration, and a product from a brand I know. I’d start by checking out a few of my favorite retailers to see if they carried such a dress, but if they didn’t, then my options start to narrow. Sites like Shopbop and Net-A-Porter are good options, but they carry more limited selections of clothes, usually from high-end labels. Wanelo or Pinterest could help, but they’re only going to surface items that other users have saved. And Amazon and Google Shopping are trying to become the answer, but so far aren’t cultivating reputations as places you go to shop — design isn’t really their strong suit.
So The Find has created an extensive search engine that combines the breadth of products you’d find on Google or Amazon, with the more attractive design and high-end feel of a Net-A-Porter or Nordstrom. The app is primarily good for finding products in fashion and home goods, although it includes everything from batteries to refrigerators. The benefit of the app is that it lets you perform highly specific searches like “coral lipstick” or “red knee-length cocktail dress,” and it won’t surface both coral necklaces and lipsticks, or red dresses and cocktail dresses. It will understand what you’re looking for, and provide more targeted results based on your past history.
For example, you can do a search for leather handbags sold at Bloomingdale’s, but you can then narrow it down even further by color, price and style:
The app remembers your favorite brands, so if I like J.Crew and Madewell on the site, and then do a search for summer dresses, results from J.Crew and Madewell will appear above results from other sites. I can also input my sizes, so it knows that I only want to see shoes available in a size 9, for example.
And one particularly interesting feature is that it lets me save my shipping and credit card information to the app, so when I go to buy an item on a retailer’s site, I can tap to have my information entered quickly (often a major barrier to making a purchase).
The Find has been around for several years now, but its previous products included an app that provided you with hi-res catalogs from major retailers and apps that let you do basic searches for items without any of the personalization launching in the new iPad version. The new app will also let you collect all your purchases in one place, so from the home screen you can see recent searches, favorite brands, recently visited websites and recent purchases, making it a one-stop view for all your online shopping.
The app is now available on iPad, and the company said its current iPhone app will update to reflect the iPad version shortly.