One interesting side effect of technology adoption is the emergence of niches. Areas that are believed to be spoken for, such as email clients and web browsers, eventually start to see new products and innovation as people seek more personal solutions.
Brave is a browser focused on user privacy. It integrates features like a VPN and Ad-blockingas core to the product, features typically served as extensions to competing browsers. After just one year, Brave has 20 million monthly active users and 7 million daily active users, despite competing in an oligopoly.
Looking at Brave’s success in a crowded market, the Versett team asked “what other niche browsers exist?” We decided to explore a browser built specifically for shopping. The team brainstormed and came up with a list of five exciting features for an e-commerce browser:
- Shopping Assistant
- The Shopping View
- Mindful Shopping Tools
- International Shopping
Most of these features could exist on an individual retailer basis, but that leaves the onus on each retailer to add them. The value of the browser model is this functionality could sit above them all—representing a huge leverage point for customers.
Whether there is a serious opportunity here or not is yet to be determined. There are plenty of startups working on the pieces as standalone tech (Fast, Reach) or smaller plugins (Honey, now owned by PayPal). If there was any company poised to launch something like this, it might be Shopify. Their recent pivot of the Shop app is arguably the first take on a shopping browser within a walled garden.
1. Shopping Assistant
A smart shopper is a more effective one. By empowering customers with more data and suggestions, the shopping experience can be significantly improved. Shopping Browser would preserve brand and size preferences, automatically applying these across any site. It would provide a price history for each item and price comparisons between all retailers. An assistant might also recommend matching products or outfits that pair with products already owned, regardless of brand. These are some of the features a shopping assistant could have if it took a retailer-agnostic view of user preferences.
2. The Shopping View
Currently, Safari offers Reader view, stripping a web page to its text and images, leaving a pure reading experience. The Shopping View, activated on any web page by button, would provide a shoppable list of products from any page. Imagine reading an article about Kerry Washington where she discusses her favourite books. This view would provide readers with a simple way to buy those books by linking to a specific retailer.
Though the concept of instant checkout already exists thanks to Apple Pay, Amazon Checkout, and Shopify Pay, the technology isn’t widespread enough yet. The value these services provide is a unified, instant checkout service. Auto-Checkout would be similar to autofill in other browsers, pressing Auto-Checkout would fill in all the standard fields with saved information and automatically progress through the remainder of the checkout flow, leaving the shopper to simply confirm the details.
4. Mindful Shopping Tools
Apps like Freedom help users focus by blocking distracting websites such as Facebook or Twitter, which in a way forces productivity. Similarly, when Mindful Shopping is employed on the Shopping Browser, it would enforce a 24 to 72-hour delay on any purchase. When a shopper is about to check out, they would be given a series of prompts designed to delay them and force them to consider if they want to make the purchase. If at the end of the waiting period the answer is still yes, the transaction is automatically completed as originally planned. This helpful, short delay might encourage consumers to be a bit more thoughtful with each purchase.
5. International Shopper’s Toolkit
Anyone who has shopped online has quickly realized that not everything is available locally. To find new and interesting things, shoppers often need to look around the world. Unfortunately, this introduces a major friction point in e-commerce: foreign exchange. Shopping Browser enhances this experience in two ways: 1) all prices are displayed in the domestic currency, and 2) consumers are able to pay in their domestic currency while the browser handles any conversion/payment processing magic.
These features only begin to scratch the surface of shopping capabilities. As the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve, it’s exciting to think about who might seize this opportunity and be first in line to give the product a shot.