The last time I shopped in a place where nothing had a price, I was at Burning Man. On the playa, a gift economy flourishes where people give, trade, and receive based on their desires and resources.
Flubit, a startup based in the UK, also removes pre-ordained pricing from its marketplace. Unlike Black Rock City, smiles are not viewed as legitimate currency on the site. Rather, it capitalizes on the sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that plaguing online shoppers who worry that there is always a better deal out there. With so many merchants offering the same inventory at varying degrees of discount, this is a legitimate concern.
Shoppers enter the product they desire and the URL of the best price they could find. Flubit’s engine than cross-references this price with its database of integrated merchants to find the ultimate best price. That particular deal is sent to the shopper who can buy it through the site.
The team says the technology finds consumers better offers than the customers’ initial offer almost 90% of the time. It does this by working directly with merchants and providing them a direct route to the consumer.
“We have had strong success integrating merchants who see us as a way to break the stranglehold of low margins forced on them by the incumbent players, like Amazon,” said CEO Bertie Stephens. “We’ve found that internet shoppers are willing to wait a short period to secure a better price. The offers they get are created by us, in house, unique for them each and every time they demand one.”
The company’s primary goal, aside from making money, is to create the simplest possible online shopping experience for customers who already knows the item they want. It eschews gimmicks and group-buying strategies, and focuses instead on seeking out the bottom line.
“We are proving that you can make e-commerce work without product or price listings, without savagely discounted loss leaders, without social. We’re changing the idea of the marketplace – we can deliver sales to merchants without them needing to offer discounts to customers already won, and we can get better prices for our users without them needing to wade through offer after offer for things they don’t want. ”
Stephens found his inspiration to start Flubit while working as Neville Longbottom’s fill-in on the Harry Potter movie. [Full disclosure: this is one of the main reasons I chose to feature this company].
“Oddly enough, Flubit started as a bit of an accident over a shared orange juice on a video shoot,” Stephens said. I wanted to built a ‘no-brainer pipe dream’: a service that would give you whatever it was you wanted to buy for less than you were about to pay for it – like a shopping trump card. I got to talking to someone on the shoot, and at the end of it he decided to invest £50,000 to make it happen, and it became the first version of Flubit.”
Since then, the company has raised $2.75 million and has 26 employees. Their main investor is Pierre Andurand, founder of BlueGold Capital Management. It has pivoted from its early days when it operated on a group-buying model that gained little traction with buyers and sellers. Now in its second iteration, consumers and retailers alike are responding to the “whatever you want for cheaper” promise.
“It’s working,” Stephens said. “For the guy who ordered a garden shed and a five pack of Crunchy Nut Flakes, where else can you buy both of those things at a price just for you? The most passionate merchant we had would list deal after deal – but he only had one product: The Incredible Hulk campervan curtains. And the biggest group we ever put together was for people who wanted to buy new boyfriends… ”
Cereal, the selling of humans, and Harry Potter aside, this scrappy team of European entrepreneurs hopes that one day, Flubit is to go-to site for e-commerce. Until then, they at least have a delightful video to watch: http://youtu.be/lzRwt3wGXpA
VB’s research team is studying mobile user acquisition: Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.