LEAP Commerce, a somewhat under-the radar mobile shopping startup, is today releasing a major update to its “Best Decision” shopping iOS app which introduces a true universal cart for consumers. What that means is that shoppers can now buy from many of their favorite stores at the same time, using a single shopping cart. The company is working with 23 e-commerce sites, including top retailers like Walmart and Amazon, as well newer companies like Gilt and Svpply, to integrate their product catalogs.
In some cases, LEAP has partnered with the retailers directly via APIs, while in others it’s working with affiliate programs. While the company isn’t permitted to disclose which companies are partners, it’s not too hard to identify these retailers in the app, because they’re likely to offer a more refined experience, or have items in featured listings. The app is also not offering full product catalogs from these retailers, choosing to eliminate things like non-bulk grocery products, for example, nor has it fully ramped up on the fashion side either. That being said, with today’s launch, the app provides access to 110 million items as a start.
LEAP Commerce was founded around a year ago, and has a team that includes serial entrepreneur Amit Chatterjee (CEO), ex-Facebookers Karel Baloun (CTO) and Kent Schoen (Head of Products), Avery Lyford (VP of Biz Dev), and Mike Andrews (Chief Scientist). Chatterjee tells me that the name “LEAP” stands for the key aspects to the service: “loyalty,” “engagement,” “analytics,” and “payments.”
In August, the startup released an early version of its iOS application which was something like a catalog app, allowing users to search across various e-commerce sites’ inventory and ask friends for opinions on what to buy via email, Facebook, Twitter or SMS. The app today looks similar, but now introduces the universal shopping cart functionality. When you find items you like, you can simply tap “add to cart” as if everything in the app comes from a single retailer. After filling your basket, you checkout just the one time, and Best Decision handles the checkout process on the various retailers’ sites on its own backend. How exactly it does this is LEAP’s “secret sauce” – and one which the company has a few provisional patents for, as well.
“When we started to put social and mobile together, we got excited about commerce,” says Chatterjee, of LEAP’s beginnings. He said the company wants to address three big things lacking in e-commerce today. “Number one, there’s not enough innovation on the shopping graph; number two, there’s not as much shopping analytics – there’s a ton of buying analytics, but not shopping analytics,” he says, “and number three, social is removed from the conversation entirely.”
Well, that last one isn’t entirely true, of course – plenty of sites are adopting social shopping paradigms, but LEAP’s ideas about how this should work are a bit different. For example, it wants to connect users with other buyers who are like them, as opposed to other social commerce initiatives whose “social” element is just letting you see what your Facebook friends may recommend and buy, perhaps.
The company also wants to learn about shoppers from their behavior, and customize search results based on those learnings. Today, LEAP uses 26 different signals to classify users into one of fourteen buckets, but refinements to these algorithms are ongoing. Using this understanding of consumer behavior, LEAP can offer better targeted ads to developer partners and ad networks, too.
Not all of LEAP’s vision is live today in the revamped Best Decision iOS app, and truth be told, the app’s user interface is still lacking in terms of looks, speed, and overall flow. But the technology under the hood is intriguing, and for heavy shoppers, the convenience of a single cross-site checkout is certainly appealing.
The company has raised a seed round in the $1-5 million range, which includes investment from Barry Lynn (ex-CIO of Wells Fargo), Gerrit Kerkstra (ex-SVP of MasterCard), Robert Spears, Larry Boucher, James Canton and several others. The Best Decision iOS app is a free download here.