Las Vegas-based apparel retailer Zappos rolled out an update to its iOS app today that saw the company fold some neat new features into the mix. There are a few new graphical flourishes here and there (users can now change the animal that appears when adding an item to their cart), and user order history is much more visual than it was in days past — it now integrates images into the mix rather than forcing users to jump into each order.
Possibly the biggest addition to the mix is a feature called negative filtering, which allows users to screen their searches based on what they don’t want to see instead of having to choose a tentative handful of options. Take colors for instance — you may not know exactly what color running shoe you want, but you sure as hell know which ones you don’t, and negative filtering lets you quickly excise the offending hues from your search results. Zappos mobile chief Aki Iida said it was one of the most requested features, and it’s making its first appearance in the iOS app.
So yes, this is a relatively small update, but the Zappos team is looking at it within the context of a much larger vision — instead of just trying to take the existing Zappos web formula and squeeze in down into a mobile-friendly experience, the company’s mobile team is looking at ways to reinvent the core of the Zappos experience depending on the device the app is running on.
“We’re trying to figure out tablets,” Iida said. “Tablets are more of a discovery device, where people are finding out about products and engaging with them.” Zappos is known for its in-house product shots and videos, which factor largely into the company’s vision for the tablet experience — maybe even more so than on the web. As far as Zappos sees it, when you’re sitting a computer you’re doing a task. When you’re on a tablet, you’re interacting in a much different way: touching, tapping, swiping, all actions that seem to denote the removal of a layer of abstraction between users and the products they’re considering buying.
Meanwhile, smartphones are largely limited by the sizes of their screens (though some companies are eagerly pushing that boundary), so Zappos’ focus there is to streamline the checkout process. That’s not to say that the notion of promoting product discovery has been thrown out the window entirely, but Zappos is more than happy to get out of the way and let users make their purchases in peace.
Perhaps more important here is the flow of features. While Iida noted that developing for different devices should lead to unique experiences, new features pushed on one platform often osmote to others — the team is looking at its presence on mobile devices as a way to unobtrusively test new features before they roll out more widely on Zappos.com itself. That’s mostly a function of engineering resources (it’s easier to rally the iOS or Android team around implementing a single feature than it is to wrangle all the web dev folks), but this free flow of notions and features help to provide a common thread between the sorts of divergent shopping experiences Zappos is trying to build.
Pinterest works best on the web, with its big images and pinning from other browser tabs. But mobile is the future and Pinterest needs to play catch up there. Today Pinterest mobile added search suggestions to make single screen pinning easier. Its iOS and Android apps also got basics like notifications and mentions. Pinterest will need to add value, not just port its website, to win on mobile.
The problem with Pinterest on mobile is that it’s fundamentally a collection site — and you need other places to collect from. That’s a breeze on the web with its bookmarklet for pinning, or quick multi-window browsing so you can add things onto your boards. But on mobile with just one screen visible, finding content can be a chore.
Pinterest is trying to fix this with a few updates today. First, search suggestions, also known as a typeahead, can quickly find you people or things when you just type a few letters. Instead of having to dream up what kind of apple-based recipes other users are pinning, typing “apple” now reveals a drop down of suggestions like apple pie (expected) and apple cider vinegar (now that’s discovery).
While already allowed on the Android app, Pinterest’s iOS app also now allows you to type in URLs within the app by hitting the ‘+’ sign at the bottom of the screen to bring in outside content. However, most people don’t know the exact URLs they’d want to pin from, so this may work better with cut and paste. Still, you’re going to have to jump back and forth between your mobile browser and Pinterest to make it work. That’s a lot more friction than on the web.
Finally, both of Pinterest’s core apps got some fundamentals added. Somehow there were not in-app or push notifications before, but now there’s both. You can also now tag people with @mentions from mobile, which feeds in nicely with the new notifications.
Pinterest is one company I’m honestly a little worried about when it comes to mobile. I feel like the nesting instinct is very natural on the desktop that you’re often using from home, your real nest. On mobile the desire to collect and arrange seems both less natural and inherently more difficult with the small screen. Pinterest might flourish on the tablet, but it will have to work hard to make its phone experience as alluring.
It needs to add unique value on the platform that takes advantage of mobile. Pin suggestions based on nearby businesses and board suggestions based on nearby users. Instant uploads from your camera roll to a private board might be a bit aggressive, but some way to more easily pin photos you’ve taken on the go would be great. Whatever is does, it needs to go beyond cramming its website into a smaller box.
Dish.fm, the recently relaunched restaurant recommendation app which focuses on the best menu items, as opposed to overall venue reviews, is today rolling out an update which expands the service into more of a dish search engine than local utility. The company had previously allowed you to see the best dishes nearby and compare dishes inside a restaurant, but now the app also helps you find the best dish (e.g., steak, tiramisu, pizza, etc.) anywhere – whether that’s 10 minutes away, in your city, or even elsewhere in the world.
When the startup had originally launched, it had gone the “Foodspotting” route, which had it relying on crowdsourced photos and reviews. Following the app’s overhaul, which debuted this past December, the new focus has been on building on top of established content from sources like Yelp, Foursquare and Instagram. In order to determine the best dishes around, Dish.fm analyzes public reviews and tips found across the web, extracts those, and counts each positive review as a “like” within its application.
With today’s update, that functionality has been expanded, now allowing users to search for favorite foods, drinks or desserts anywhere they want, using a slider at the bottom of the app’s homescreen which can be set to anything from 0.1 miles to 15 miles to search closer to home. Or, if you’re planning a trip, for instance, a new search interface lets you search for both dishes or restaurants by name in another city, and display these on map or within Dish.fm’s now cleaner, visual interface featuring photos of the items in question.
The app has also added key details like the restaurant’s hours, directions and phone number, and has updated user profiles to rank dishes by the date reviewed, so it can serve as a diary of your favorite meals.
When Dish.fm relaunched in December, it supported just two cities ( New York and San Francisco) with a total of 3 million reviews analyzed. In March, the company added 13 more cities, and today it has 865 cities on board, with over 8 million reviews analyzed, as well as 8 million plus photos. Over a million of the app’s dishes have votes – meaning users have said the item is “awesome” or “awful.”
In tests, resetting the city to somewhere else in the world outside of your own, was still a little buggy – a couple of times after making the switch and tapping the results, the app would still show my last searches on the screen. But an additional attempt would correct the problem, so it seems like there might be a couple of bugs left to squash. (Your mileage, as they say, may vary.)
The updated version of Dish.fm, available for iPhone and iPad, is available now here on the Apple App Store.
Pinterest is ramping up its international strategy by kicking off a localisation effort in the U.K. today, tweaking the site so that it deliberately foregrounds U.K. content to U.K. users and also adding a British English language setting to make Brits feel more at home. The U.K. is the first part in what appears to be a bigger strategy to target more usage, and more users, outside of the U.S., with France likely to be the next country to get the localizing treatment, according to a spokeswoman.
We’ve asked Pinterest if it is conducting parallel localisation efforts in other global markets and will update this story with any response. Update: “Pinterest does feel like it’s just getting started with its localisation efforts and with the UK being the first international effort the team is hoping to learn a lot from it, in order to inform how they reach out to communities in other countries. France is likely to be next but Pinterest is waiting to finalise these details until after they’ve learned more from the UK,” the spokeswoman said.
The company is not currently breaking out user numbers, but according to one estimate Pinterest had some 40 million users as of February this year.
Back in February Pinterest raised $200 million in Series D funding – with “international growth” pegged as one of the growth-oriented initiatives that the money would be used for. Last year it also picked up a $100 billion investment from Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten – a further sign of its international ambitions. While in March this year, Pinterest rolled out a design refresh, adding bigger pictures and more discovery features worldwide.
It also rolled out a web analytics product to make it easier for businesses to track referrals and measure what users are doing on the site. Today’s localisation efforts reinforce that effort by encouraging greater user engagement — and driving engagement is likely to be key to helping the social network generate revenues some day.
Here’s how the company explained the U.K.-specific site changes in an email sent to TechCrunch:
…more UK Pinners and pins will be suggested to UK users on the site. Also, when a new person in the UK joins Pinterest, they’ll now see other Pinners in the UK. In addition, search results will feature more UK content. Finally, Pinterest is making sure that people in the UK can access the service in British English. We’re hoping this will lead to more British pinners discovering things they love on Pinterest.
In addition to these U.K.-specific site customisations, the visual social network/content discovery site is also kicking off a dedicated community event — using the hashtag #PinitforwardUK – in a bid to raise its local profile. It’s also launched a U.K. welcome page, in a further outreach effort.
The Pin It Forward UK initiative, which kicks off today, will be used to spread the word about the new, U.K.-flavoured Pinterest beyond the confines of Pinterest. The company has recruited 300 bloggers to post Pinterest-related blogs on their own sites over the next 30 days to “celebrate their passion” — or rather explain how to use Pinterest and, through that, hopefully reel in more British eyeballs.
Each day 10 or so bloggers will post about their passion, describe how they express it on Pinterest, and introduce the set of bloggers for the next day. Long-time UK pinner, Will Taylor, from Bright.Bazaar today started things off with a guest post on the Pinterest Blog. Pinterest will be promoting Pin It Forward UK on its blog, social channels (using #PinItForwardUK) and will also be featuring the best boards as part of the Pinterest Weekly emails.
Pinterest said the U.K.-specific site customisations are a “first step” in its effort to improve the experience for U.K. users, and are the result of feedback it has received from U.K. users.
Bright.Bazaar’s Taylor’s introductory blog on the Pin It Forward UK campaign explains that the site never officially launched in the U.K. — rather it was switched on globally and allowed to grow organically — adding that the idea behind the campaign is therefore to “make Pinterest feel more natural, welcoming and interesting to local audiences”.
Shopping search engine TheFind is debuting a more personalized search feature today. Personalized search sifts through the millions of online products available to give you personal results based on a combination of both your Facebook “Likes” and past shopping searches and clicks on TheFind.com.
TheFind, which launched back in 2006, is a comparison shopping site that surface and categorize more than 500 million product offers from 500,000 stores. The company was recently granted a patent (the seventh in TheFind’s portfolio of patents) for the “Method for Relevancy Ranking of Products in Online Shopping,” and as the company’s CTO Shashikant Khandelwal explains, TheFind wants to rank products based on your social and shopping habits to give you exactly what you want faster.
For people who sign in with Facebook Connect, personalization of your results is based both on your demographics (gender, age etc) and your Facebook Likes and also activity on TheFind. Obviously, the more active you are on TheFind and Facebook, the more tailored the search results will become. So if you are searching for jeans, you’ll see the stores that your friends liked and results from those stores will rank higher than others.
This isn’t the first time TheFind has attempted to incorporate social data into the shopping experience. Back in 2010, TheFind debuted Facebook Connect, and last year debuted Glimpse, a Pinterest-like Facebook shopping discovery app. Now TheFind is hoping adding social to the search experience will help conversions. Another startup playing in the similar space is Lish, the new social shopping app from Payvment.