BusinessScience + Tech

Automated Shopping

The new frontier in Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Automated Shopping. The idea behind Automated Shopping is to use technology to perform the previously manual tasks of finding the best price on any product with better results rather than wasting many hours doing it yourself.

Hours of Time Wasted Finding The Best Price

Some people love spending endless hours perusing thousands of products until they find just the right item. Countless hours are waisted looking for the best price on that item. They navigate numerous websites that promise links to discount coupons that may or may not exist.

The die hard bargain hunter will visit the various stores that carry the product in hopes some have a current sale they can exploit. Some will even go so far as to find the product in different countries that may cost less than buying locally. Not everyone actually enjoys spending all this time on these tasks.

While all of these approaches may be effective at finding a discount, the time spent doing them far outweighs any discount realized. Solving this problem is the emerging technology of “Automated Shopping.” New companies are actively developing a technology that will automate all these tasks for the shopper at near real-time speed.

Automated Solution to Manual Problem

Until recently, no single solution automatically applied all the bargain hunting techniques for the consumer. But today, forward looking companies are beginning to leverage AI computing methods to enhance the shopping experience. For those of us who want the best price for a product but don’t want to spend weeks finding it, this technology is long overdue.

It’s too soon to tell how this technology will be embraced in the market but there is one emerging company that appears to have the early technical lead in this space and has big plans for what to do with it. CircleAny.com believes their approach will save consumers time and be more effective at finding bargains than if they spent hours of time searching manually.

Automated Shopping Features

CircleAny leverages Automated Shopping by searching for and finding the prices on the same product across many different stores and geographies, rather than just a few preferred stores like common e-commerce approaches.

Another interesting capability is the alerting technology. You can search for your product either on the website or wherever else you located it and add it to your personal “Watchlist.” Every day it will scan the ever growing list of vendors across the world for the best price. You can set easily customized thresholds like “alert me when price falls below” or a number of other criteria, and it will alert you accordingly. It will even give you historical pricing so you can set realistic prices for your alert threshold.

Where this really comes in handy is when stores hold “One-Day-Only” sales, overstocked items, or reduced price items, the consumer will not miss out on short-notice sales. In normal situations, by the time you find out your product was on sale, it is already too late. If you used this tool, CircleAny would have alerted you via email or text that your product has a great price soon after it posted.

As a new company, they are receptive to suggestions on what features people want automated. For example, if you recommend a store that is currently not in their search database, they will add that to their ever-growing list of vendors searched daily. At the time of this writing, they have nearly 120 Million products indexed and thousands of stores represented.

Legacy Solutions Fall Short

Other companies have tried to provide similar services but have failed because they were affiliated with one specific company or e-commerce platform. CircleAny, on the other hand, believes Automated Shopping only works if it is as inclusive as possible. This approach is more akin to the “Open Source” thinking in engineering circles. There are drawbacks to such an ambitious technology project. Sometimes the products found are stale or the price at the specific store was affected by location searched.

Companies like Amazon or Google have attempted to solve some of these problems through point solutions that only work on their specific sites. Some show price trends. Some, like Amazon, alert you when the product on their site goes on sale. Unfortunately, this does not scale across the thousands of stores, large and small, in the world that could have better prices but are not affiliated with these larger e-commerce companies.

Leveling the Playing Field

When shopping, you are exposed to the products the stores want you to see. This is not the same as being shown what you are interested in seeing. There are many reasons stores show some things and hide others. They could be making extra compensation for selling specific items. There could be pricing competition for certain products that would force them to price match and lower their margin.

Automated Shopping levels the playing field by removing these artificial marketing filters on products. What you see are hopefully an exhaustive inventory of products related to your specific search, not influenced by who pays more to be first on the results.

Expectations are High

With what we are seeing so far, expectations are high that Automated Shopping will revolutionize the shopping experience. It won’t matter where you live or how much time you have to find the best price. It is getting to a point where what you see when you shop is the best price, best product and highest quality vendor as you search.

Business applications for this technology are emerging as well. If applied properly, the technology can help with loss prevention, asset recovery, reduced cost of business and improved supply chain methods. More on this technology will certainly follow due to our Automation community interest. In the meantime, give the technology a try and share your feedback on where you see it going in the future.

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Kevin Kohn

I have spent my career and personal life working to improve solutions, systems and processes through automation–because I hate doing the same thing twice.

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