Imagine this special friend…
Imagine that you are buying a new printer. Would you go and buy the first printer you see? No, there’s a process.
I guess you would start with a little bit of googling. “Best printer for home use”. “Best home printers under 10k”…
That will get you almost 20 sites and blogs. Read through them and you understand why Laserjet is better, that it is costlier, and so on.
Next, you google for “Buy Laserjet printer India”. Good! That gives you few e-commerce sites and … ads.
Now, you go through each of these sites applying the filters — price, type, condition, etc. That gives you a list of relevant products available.
Now, you look at the ratings and reviews. Few people saying ‘no’, lots of people saying ‘yes’. Wait that’s true for the next printer also. Hmm, but a lot more people have said ‘yes’ for this one. But then, that one is cheaper. Wait, this one has a better warranty. So on…
Finally, you get to ordering. Wait, what about checking up a few deals? Surf through the ‘offers’ section of these sites and other coupon sites. Got something? Still feeling that there may be a better option out there? What if the prices will be low tomorrow because of the coming festival?…
At the end of the above marathon, I am not sure whether you have purchased the product or not.
But I am sure of two things:
- You have spent hours. Now you are tired. So much so that you just want to get it over with.
- This one is more interesting — You have been through exactly the same process that hundreds of others have gone through.
This is the biggest inefficiency of the current form of e-commerce — hundreds of people spending time and effort going through similar steps of searching for products, every time they start shopping for something new. In offline commerce, you usually walk up to the store and ask the salesperson, which product will be the best for such and such requirements. But in e-commerce, you have accepted reading tonnes of reviews, videos and blogs as the way to get this information. Isn’t that an inferior substitute because of the huge time and effort invested to get the same results?
Now, imagine having a friend, who bought a printer last week. The entire process described above reduces drastically, like a city after it is ravaged by Godzilla.
You pick up the phone and message/call her, asking her about which printer she bought and why, and how has her experience been till now. If the requirements match and her reasons seem good enough to you, then you are good to go.
Take a cursory glance at the ratings and reviews out of habit and make the purchase. Done!
Now, the difference between both the processes is the increase in efficiency. In the second process, the search and research was done only once but the results were used twice. Thus, you get the same results with lesser time and effort invested.
If you are still undecided, answer this simple question: Would you be happier spending 2–3 hours reading about printers, figuring out which one is the best for you, or rather, spending that time with friends and getting the same advice over a simple chat?
Now ask yourself the same question while purchasing any new item.
In the absence of that friend, who could tell you about the product, think of all the time and effort you have to spend on such product hunts — time, that could be used for other important and/or fun work. Think of the times, when you had to make do with ‘just okay’ products because you were too busy/tired to continue searching. Think of the times, when you procrastinated purchases for weeks because it was too difficult to choose among similar looking options…
What if you had a friend to reach out to, every time you needed advice or help while making such online purchases?
It is practically not possible to have an omniscient friend (although some friends claim to be 😃 ). However, it is definitely possible to build a friendly entity that can be this trusted friend. This entity would actually be a network of people, who are experts in their fields and product categories — people who are open to helping others and sharing their passion. A network wide enough to accommodate requests of any category and at any time.
But there are challenges. The most prominent is to establish the same levels of trust and ease that one enjoys with her friends. The others are operational, starting with figuring out how to route each request to the the most appropriate expert for that product automatically, putting in place appropriate checks and incentive structures for the experts to give the best advice or recommendations every time, and others…
However, these challenges are worth solving and we are on it.
We are Maven.
And with your help, soon, we will have this ‘special friend’ perfected.
[To see what we have been able to achieve so far, please visit www.mavenapp.in . Feel free to send us any suggestions, questions and feedback. We will be happy to receive them at firstname.lastname@example.org ]