Backed by science, not marketing.
Decide.com

Decide.com – make a note of that name. 12 months ago I found the Seattle startup after doing research on ecommerce recommendation engines (This was prior to Hunch being acquired by eBay, whom I thought was onto something). Recommendation services for ecommerce products are high on the agenda for ecommerce powerhouses whom I believe are looking to acquire these service providers or startups.  When you have the user’s attention and willing to pay then a recommendation could lead to an addition into the shopping cart. Upselling is a classic retail strategy yet in ecommerce it is not something many execute well. Lets all agree that Jeff Bezos was well before the time when Amazon rolled it out. The truth is that it needs to be refreshed.

Anyway, what is the one thing that all ecommerce users fear? Besides the courier losing the product, it is buyers regret. I am honest, I have had one occurrence of it and it hurts real bad. Suddenly a joyous event hurts right into your credit card. So, recommendations and additional references can ensure that users know that they are really getting the latest, highest rated and best price for a product they wish to acquire. Decide.com tick all three boxes and I believe that clever shoppers will realise that decide.com is a real hero in the purchasing process.

Comparison Shopping, I think is in a phase where the big players are looking to protect their turf from Google and become more useful for their users. So review services, recommendations are all relevant and possible bolt on services. So Bizrate’s partnership with decide to augment their product pages is the starting point for every Comparison Shopping Engine. (I am tempted to say that products that have positive information from decide.com is converting better than all other products.)

Paulson said the company isn’t disclosing terms of the deal at his time, but the Bizrate integration displays a “Powered by Decide” label on the buy/wait recommendation section of a product page which links back to the site. “The way we’re doing this is, we’re thinking about it in terms of the very big picture,” Paulson explained. “We’re looking to create the next signal, we know we have something highly valuable to shoppers, and our goal is to make this broadly available to people wherever  and whenever they’re shopping. (Michael Paulson is VP, Product & Business Development at Decide.com)

Decide.com, I believe is pointing us all to where ecommerce is headed. Data driven decision making that has a variety of inputs / signals that is more personal and trusted. The data is sourced from all over the web by the startup and is made relevant for the user. Enough of the future, lets look at the current execution of decide.com.

The profile of a silent giant

In language we are all taught, sentence formulation should contain the “when”, the “what” and the “who”. It almost feels that the decide.com team is using this as their product road map.

When to buy?
Decide.com started with an alpha in which users assisted them with their MVP. They checked product details and did all the normal things a closed alpha launch (bug identification, bug reporting etc). Then when ready they launched their initial product with data and catalog in a few categories (mobile phones, notebooks and cameras). At that point they provided data based entirely on price and product information. Is the price expected to drop? Is a newer version of the product expected?

That information is very useful for any online shopper, especially those who want to ensure that they are getting the best deal for their needs at that given time.  Uncertainty is the maker of shopping cart abandonment. If you are unsure about a purchase then references on latest model, price fluctuations and clear information is the key items that leads to the item being added into the shopping cart and the transaction being completed.

In most cases ecommerce startups then are happy with their efforts and then focus on user acquisition. Well, the decide team did not do that (folks, this team are constantly looking at making themselves more indispensable for their users and add value to their offering) and continued iterating.  (I believe that the continuous iteration from the decide team is indicative of the fact that they all believe they are on to something big and all believe in their mission.)

Decide.com offers clear price history information as well as whether the respective product is due for a update soon. Nothing is more sad than buying something and then a week afterwards a new version is released by the manufacturer.

What to buy?
In ecommerce trust is found through reviews and product data that is provided on the e-retailers website. Simply, reviews are the staple for ecommerce decision makers. Amazon is the clear market leader with their reviews (I have some issues with how they score their value) but the point is one bad review can lead to shopping cart abandonment.

In terms of reviews, gdgt.com is at the moment doing some of the best execution with regards to sourcing reviews from users and providers in my opinion. However, one can only read so many reviews..

Well decide.com has literally spun the review model right on its head with their execution. They create a review score through data normalisation and algorithms.

All reviews are not created equal. An easy delineation was for us to separate the user from the expert reviews. In our calculation we consider expert and user reviews as 2 different sources (even if from the same site) and this is because each can be weighted differently given the inherent credibility and trustworthiness of the sources.

I must confess that I had initial doubt over this development but the decide team exceeded every expectation I had. Their execution is unlike anything I have seen all across the ecommerce landscape and that tells me just how valuable they have become.

To get the scores, the company sifts through more than 200 terabytes of data, including two million user reviews from online retailers, such as Amazon and Best Buy, as well as 7,000 professional opinions from online reviewers. The service launches in beta today for more than 22,000 consumer electronics and appliances across 16 categories.

Another product that they offer is the “Got Your Back” solution. This for me is the ultimate sign of confidence in your team, idea and product. The decide team have a group of products that they provide on a daily basis via email that are “protected” against a price drop. If the price drops in a two week time frame then decide.com will pay the user the difference.  Think about it, the confidence that is needed to do this is off the charts. If it goes wrong, then money streams out of the door. I can but imagine how much behind the scenes work was done on this.

Got Your Back reflects our confidence in our price predictions,” said Fridgen. “We want to show our users this isn’t just lip service – we’re actually willing to put our money behind our data-driven recommendations.”

Who is buying?
Shauna Causey mentioned to Robert Scoble that the next iteration of decide.com will contain a social layer. A want button (err facebook where is yours?) and social commerce added to their current offering that should scare the living daylights out of their competitions. The want button I think is arguably the biggest social action driver not being utilised at present …

They have a “Decide Insiders” facebook group which can be seen as digital focus group in which selected users get a pre-market look at development. This small concept is a quick way to get feedback on ideas etc.

The ecommerce ecosystem should pay attention to decide.com
One thing to keep in mind with the decide team is that they have already done the training wheels with a startup in the prediction space. Farecast was sold to Microsoft for $115 million.  Secondly they have funding from venture capital companies and Angel investors that have expertise in ecommerce. Early Google investor and former Amazon.com executive Ram Shriram; former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford and former Farecast CEO Hugh Crean are also investors.

Most importantly I think that they have some of the brightest minds working on solving a real commerce problem.

Decide is a service dedicated to helping consumers shop with no regrets. The company has raised $8.5M in venture capital from Madrona Venture Group, Maveron, and angel investors. Decide was co-founded by Internet search pioneer Oren Etzioni and has gained support from consumer Internet and ecommerce veterans.

It seems from the outside that Oren Etzioni and the founders are tackling ecommerce with a game plan.

“Brian and Ian Ma, along with Han Hsu and Ken Hsu, all UW alumni, started Decide.com after dreaming up an idea several years ago in between their day jobs at Google, Zillow, Microsoft, and Zaaz, respectively.”

Solve the issues one by one and then ensure that your offering is of such strength that there are clear boundaries to entry for competitors.

The reasons why I love the product is that one it is pointing me to where we all are going (for those not so sure, you will thank me) ecommerce wise and secondly that the decide team are focused on their users.

I am going to say it, just to be clear: Decide.com is the future of ecommerce and if they remain private then the comparison shopping industry has a real powerful competitor. They are steadily becoming a great acquisition target for another small Seattle company