You've probably heard of NewBrandAnalytics if you're familiar with D.C. tech. Neil Kataria founded it in 2010 to "pioneer a way for businesses to understand customer feedback" – in effect they were replacing the traditional survey or comment card for consumer-facing businesses. "We saw the reviews were extremely important to businesses, but from a consumer standpoint people like reviews to narrow their choices down," he said. "So someone buying a new camera – they would read 10 reviews about four different types of cameras and narrow their choices down to two. Over and over again I found that the determining factor of their choice was the price of that product, the price on sale." That led Kataria to his newest venture, Blue Tiger Labs, which he started in March.
"At NewBrand, we were in growth mode, and I love the early parts of building a business, the first couple of years," Kataria said, who since stepped down as CEO of NewBrandAnalytics, but still chairs its board. This led him to do something new, looking at the consumer-business relationship through a new lens. With strategic investors like Mark Ein, Blue Tiger Venturres and Jeff Webber's Silicon Valley-based Entrepreneurship Fund, Blue Tiger is introducing few different solutions to better cultivate this relationship in the form of new e-commerce mobile applications.
"First is Pricespotting, which is if I'm a consumer how do I find the best price for my favorite products at any store within a certain area?" the CEO said. "People still go into local stores," he added, quoting a Forrester study. "But those price within an individual store are not online. So we've embarked on this massive challenge, kind of how Google built Maps with Street View, to build this cool technology to crowdsource local prices, in any location, in any retail store, of a product."
While Blue Tiger Labs built a massive library of stores, products and a mobile application around it, the concept really depends on consumers to make it the best it can be. "Anyone can download the application, go into a store and essentially contribute to the community," Kataria said. When you see a sale in a store, using the app's barcode scanner, you can easily enter the item and price into Pricespotting's database, which then corresponds geographically to that store – if a store is not yet listed, you can add it. The Blue Tiger Labs founder described the process as "frictionless," one that takes about five seconds to help your neighbor save a buck or two.
The benefits are also there for small businesses that struggle to compete with larger companies. Sale prices tend to change week to week, but Blue Tiger Labs found that most stores fail to publicize them as to fully take advantage of sales. Big box stores publish weekly flyers, but even those don't cover all of their promotional prices. But a true believer in the local business model, Kataria and Blue Tiger built another app – the Mobile Merchant Platform, which works with Pricespotting as a backend of sorts – that he hopes will encourage small business owners to promote their sales and business more. "Most businesses, if not all of them, the general managers have a computer in their pocket," he said, bullish on mobile products. "We've leveraged our platform to enable businesses to essentially publish out those unadvertised specials in a self-service manner." So if a wine shop owner needed to move a certain brand of wine before a new shipment came in, they could craft a sale and publish it to Pricespotting to inform the public, rather than hoping somebody visiting saw a sign in the store.
The incentive for businesses to build the database is obvious – it promotes their sales and their stores. But what about consumers? As Kataria explained, not only do they save time and money – 35 percent on average – on their favorite products by seeing a real-time price point comparison while supporting local businesses, but they also receive rewards. And not bogus rewards, but reward points Blue Tiger Labs allows you to redeem for real cash through Square Cash. "The points convert to cash and you can redeem those in 24 hours and save money off your next purchase," the founder said. It's a cyclical process that should feed off itself. The more consumers contribute, the more cash they earn to save on their next purchase, which again in turn encourages them to contribute more, all the while spurring spending in a local economy. Without any press and while the app was still in Beta, Kataria said more than 1,000 people had already earned and redeemed rewards.
While Kataria and Blue Tiger have made a solid dent in entering products and stores in the app, it's truly dependent on consumers and businesses to make it work to its fullest potential. It's Kataria's belief that this consumer market needs disruption to help shoppers make better decisions and end the belief that the Amazons and Walmarts of the world are the be all and end all of commerce. "We believe that people should still go into stores and that people will pay to shop in stores," he said. "We just want to drive as much traffic as possible to local businesses. Consumers and businesses should be in a partnership, a community. And that's what we're trying to build here."
Blue Tiger Labs tested the apps and have officially launched Pricespotting here in D.C. as of the New Year. Next, they look to extend the service to the Bay Area, Atlanta and New York, moving to a new location every 15 days. But that's more or less a conceptual launch – in reality the app can now be used anywhere.