Is PoachIt Finally Going to Revolutionize Online Shopping?

Most of us are probably tired of the relentless march of e-commerce. It seems as though every day there’s a new startup, app, or website that wants us to change the way we shop. But mostly they just want us to buy more stuff.

For the most part, these things end up becoming just another flash in the pan. And then we’re back to shopping exclusively at Amazon, Walmart, and Costco.

Enter PoachIt. Based in New York City, PoachIt wants to become not just the latest, but also the last, online shopping service customers can use to find deals. Founder Gidi Fisher says his company is taking shopping back to the basics: by finding the best coupons and sales.

Fisher says the service is capable of crawling the web to check when products go on sale. It will also automatically validate the coupon codes it finds, which means users will only see the coupons that are guaranteed to work. Fisher claims that the app has, to date, saved shoppers somewhere around $22 million on their online purchases. If you do the math, and apparently Fisher has, that works out to about $47 per product.

The idea is simple: if customers are scouring the web for deals, it’s because they want to spend money. Unlike plenty of other e-commerce platforms that seem to make the same mistakes again and again, PoachIt is trying to remove as many barriers from the customer’s way as possible.

Crawling Here, Crawling There

PoachIt works thanks to a rather Google-esque approach. Their crawlers travel the web, looking for coupons and sales, and serves up relevant results when users press the convenient PoachIt button in their bookmarks bar. From there, it’s easy to either make a purchase or tag the product to check up on later, when prices may be even lower.

These crawlers look at more than 5,000 websites twice every day, ensuring that the data is more-or-less always up-to-date. In addition to finding sales on retailers’ websites, they’ll also scan coupon aggregating websites such as Coupons.com.

In short, the service behaves rather like a human would: methodically searching the web for the most promising leads. Of course, it does it a great deal faster and more efficiently than a human could. Fisher says everything under the hood was built in-house and completely from scratch. “Nothing else exists out there that we could lean on,” he says.

But How Do You Monetize It?

If you’re wondering how PoachIt profits from this business model, you’re probably not alone. Right now, the company makes most of its money from affiliate fees, but there may be big things on the horizon. Fisher and his 10-person team are hoping to court big retailers, encouraging them to pay for pricing data from their competitors.

It’s going to be a long process, admittedly, but the team seems committed. The focus right now is on patenting PoachIt’s proprietary technology; after all, there are plenty of larger and much more formidable e-commerce services out there that would love to get their hands on such a thing.

Seizing An Opportunity

One of the most significant threats to PoachIt’s success (notice the past tense) was a company called Hukkster, which recently shut down thanks to internal problems. There didn’t seem to be any indication that the company’s business model was at fault, though, which has put PoachIt in a unique position. Hukkster’s customers are now looking for the next likely alternative. And there are 300,000 of them.

And it does seem like PoachIt is on the right track. They already seem to have cornered a working solution to the endlessly frustrating task of locating working coupon codes on the Internet, and  that research has revealed that 80% of the 4 million available codes don’t work. Personally, I don’t like those odds.

Here’s hoping PoachIt has the momentum (not to mention the capital) it needs to see this vision through.

Image Credit: Rick Harris (via Flickr)

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