Emerging out of stealth mode today, San Francisco-based startup BuyVia is throwing its hat into the ring as another shopping service and mobile app designed for price comparisons. The company is predominantly focused on consumer electronics like laptops, smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, and video games.
Because of the often hefty price of these items, they’re often among those that consumers search for the most when researching a planned purchase. This is also true when consumers go “showrooming” – the emerging trend where shoppers treat brick-and-mortar retail stores as a place where they can get hands-on with merchandise before buying at a discounted price online. A number of e-commerce retailers have benefitted greatly from this trend, especially Amazon, whose own mobile application includes price comparison functionality via barcode scanning or even by snapping a photo.
With BuyVia, however, the idea is to better connect the online and offline worlds, allowing consumers to get price alerts from both e-commerce and local retailers when a given product matches their desired price. Instead of simply scanning a barcode to see if someone else has the same item for cheaper, BuyVia will proactively alert shoppers when their preferred price point is hit, whether they’re out shopping or at home researching. In addition to its online service, the BuyVia mobile app includes a geo-location function, which is triggered when the consumer walks by a store where a local retailer has a deal or sale that matches what they were looking for.
In addition to its price comparisons, the app also provides plain-language product descriptions to help consumers better research products.
The key advantage here, explains the company, is that its engine is designed unbiased in terms of recommending one retailer over another (especially helpful now that Google Shopping has switched to a “pay for play” model, so to speak, which only features advertisers). BuyVia currently supports searches across Amazon, HP, NewEgg, PriceGrabber, Dell, Milo, TigerDirect, Sony, and others, in terms of e-commerce sites, but it also pulls in local sales and deals from merchant feeds, as well as hand-entered data from sales circulars.
At launch, co-founder Norman Fong tells us there are 80 million unique products and services across 25 categories and over 11,000 merchants in the database. Revenue is generated through affiliate partnerships and ads, but Fong says this will not affect the prices and products offered. He says that some competitors in the shopping and discount-finding space have “hidden deals with manufacturers” that limit the availability of products of the kinds of deals offered. BuyVia will instead operate independently, and will bring in local deals to supplement its selection.
But BuyVia is far from being the only price comparison service on the market, as it goes up against leading apps like ShopSavvy and (eBay-owned) RedLaser, as well as price comparison startups like Decide.com and Sortable, for example. It says that its advantage here is that it’s available on both web and mobile, offers a wider selection of hand-curated local deals, and makes a better effort at showing tax and shipping in its price comparisons.
The company was founded by Norman Fong, as noted above, and Dr. Lawrence Fong. The founders have experience in the tech deals and hardware space, having previously founded Techbargains.com, and, prior to that, computer storage hardware and software firm FWC in 1985, sold to Streamlogic and Parallax Capital in 1996. They’re currently funding BuyVia out of their own pocket.