Tag Archives: Technology

“To Done” Smartphone App

16 May

"To Do" list 2.0, but with room for improvement...
Everyday, we wake up with a list in our heads of things we need to do that day. There are groceries to buy, errands to run, work tasks to complete, and happy hour beers to drink – some things on our “to do” list are more of a chore than others, but they are all things that need to get done one way or another.

Some of us write reminder notes on our hands, scribble grocery lists on sheets of paper or use our smartphones to remind ourselves of what we need to do. Oftentimes any or all of these methods are sufficient to remind ourselves what we need to do , but just because we remember to do a task doesn’t mean it’s not a pain in the ass to do so. We’ve successfully leveraged technology to make our work more efficient (I agree, this is highly debatable), so why not use it to make our “to do” list easier, cheaper, and more fun?

The “To Done” smartphone app I envision does just that, and has a unique business model with multiple revenue streams to boot. Yes, there are literally dozens of “to do” apps and productivity-boosting apps out on the market, but none of them fully leverage the inherent capabilities of our wallet sized computers. What these apps lack, and what I’m jonesing for, is the ability for the items on my “to do” list to proactively reach out to me at the most opportune times and remind me that I need to buy X, do Y, or go to Z. Phone alarms and calendar-synced alerts are a step in the right direction, but what good is it for me to have my phone remind me at 2pm that I need to buy toothpaste when I’m in the middle of an afternoon of meetings? Not only will I forget by the time I’m actually out the door, but I’ll also be annoyed by the inefficacy of the system and abandon it.

What I propose is to leverage the geo-location services of smartphones and a database of product SKUs and conditional commands to build a better and more proactive “to do” list: the To Done app (because it makes your tasks so easy to check off that you might as well consider them done! Thanks but no thanks Mr. Draper, I have this one covered).

Take my list of tasks for example. What if I could choose from a host of SKUs for my favorite toothpaste brand, my laundry detergent of choice, or anything else I need to buy? To Done would partner with retailers like CVS, Target and Harris Teeter, among others, to create a vast database of all the SKUs carried by those retailers. I could then choose a specific product, and anytime I walked by a CVS, for example, my phone would ping me: “There are 6 items on your To Done list at the CVS 150 yards away at 888 Smith Street.” At that point, you could pop into the store to pick up your items, or even better, you could purchase the items on your phone and scoop them up. The latter would require a closer partnership with the retailer’s POS system, but this is clearly where the mobile payments industry is heading anyways, so perhaps a third party developer could be brought on board to add this functionality.

Retailers such as nation-wide pharmacy chains and grocery stores would be great partners for the development of this app, because it would give them incredibly valuable insights into the purchasing habits of local consumers. Over time, they could identify trends such as “Washingtonians love Crest more than Colgate, and they buy a ton of Cheerios in January but not so much in August,” trends that could allow them to make strategic decisions about their inventory management systems. Access to consumers within a close distance of their stores is very valuable to retailers, who would be willing to share a percent of sales – or perhaps pay to join a platform to access these consumers  – made through the To Done app. Additionally, retailers could provide targeted discounts or leverage their customer loyalty systems incentive app users to buy shaving cream at this CVS, rather than that Duane Reed across the street: “Hi there, it looks like we have 6 of your To Do items in stock; why don’t you buy them now and we’ll give you 15% off!?” Sounds good to me.

In addition to facilitating the purchase of products on your “to do” list, To Done could help you with other tasks based on your location and/or pre-defined parameters. For example, let’s say you need to water your house plant. Why not have that be a recurring To Done item and have the app ping you every other Tuesday when it detects that you are at your house? The applications of this type of proactive, location-based offering are endless, and with the right algorithms, the To Done app could get smarter over time by drawing insights around patterns in your purchase and task history, making recommendations where it sees fit.

Developing the app itself is not a significant investment itself, but landing the high-level retail partnerships that truly make the app a valuable tool would require a talented business developer. Additionally, partnerships with players such as Foursquare, Google and others would ensure the app is a truly innovative offering, and not an “also ran.”

What do you think – anything you’d love to see checked off your To Done list??

Startup Spotlight: ShopSavvy and iftt

28 Dec

Greetings readers, and welcome to a new monthly blog series where I will discuss all things ‘startup’ – from venture capital resources to analyses of innovative companies that I think are truly disrupting their industries, or creating entirely new ones.

I wanted to start by introducing two companies that I recently discovered, both of which leverage technology to simplify consumers’ lives and literally “put the internet to work for you”: ShopSavvy and ifttt.

ShopSavvy

ShopSavvy, a free smartphone application introduced in September 2008 by Dallas-based idea factory Big in Japan, allows users to do comparative shopping on the go. The application, which is available on Android, Windows Mobile and Apple’s iOS systems, uses smartphones’ cameras, the internet, and geolocation services to identify products and inform shoppers where they can find those products online or locally. The app can read traditional barcodes as well as QR codes, and has a slew of features that allow users to add photos and prices, post reviews, share products via various channels, stream deals aggregated from the web and other ShopSavvy users, and check the availability of products at local retailers.

After using the application for a few weeks, I have been amazed by its potential to change the way consumers shop and its broader impact on B2C product-centric business models.  Especially during such times of economic uncertainty, consumers are increasingly arming themselves with information to make smarter purchasing decisions, and ShopSavvy provides a clearly defined benefit in the form of immediate savings. For merchants, however, the application is more of a direct affront to profit margins, as they must become more aware of and responsive to competitors’ pricing schemes – a challenge that is especially daunting to smaller, less flexible retailers who cannot purchase on the scale of larger, big-box competitors. Continue Reading»

If This, Then That (iftt.com)

It seems that every week we are inundated with a new app, social network, or some other innovation served up through digital channels, but after awhile, managing all of these elements becomes almost a second job. Surely there’s a way to consolidate our tech lives, and make our online worlds more proactive, right? Enter ifttt.com. ifttt (pronounced like ‘sift’, minus the ‘s’) “puts the internet to work for you” by triggering actions when users define and implement conditional “recipes” across various channels. In November, ifttt announced a partnership with Buffer, a social media scheduling application that will expand the scope of potential recipes that users can create.

For example, you can create a recipe in which you receive a text message anytime that the forecast calls for rain, or one where favorite tweets are automatically saved to your Evernote account.  Currently, the most popular ifttt recipe is one in which every time you are tagged in a Facebook photo, the image is automatically saved in a Dropbox folder.

I have long been intrigued by the broader shift from content and product aggregation, to more proactive recommendation-based models, and If This, Then That certainly takes a leap in that direction. After a 9-month beta test that began in December 2010 and included over 100,000 tasks that triggered more than 25 million “actions”, ifttt is now open to all users.