Watch out, Google! Comparison shopping became a whole lot sexier with the launch of Sortable.com earlier this month. The decision engine makes it easy to sort through hundreds of laptops, for example, and find the one that exactly meets your needs and your budget. As we reported soon after its launch, Sortable also offers a social shopping experience that has the potential to revolutionize online product research and content merchandising. To find out what Sortable will mean for content merchandising and companies that sell products online, I recently caught up with Sortable co-founder and CEO Christopher Reid.
Sortable Aims to Transform Online Shopping
Content Ping: How will decision engines like Sortable change the way people research products online?
Christopher Reid: I think just like Facebook and Google, when someone can get technology like this to work at a broad scale there is going to be a winner-take-all. The impact of that for consumers is you’re going to see a pile-on effect around the leader–you’ll see a destination site where consumers can go to feel safe and significantly enhance their decision-making ability in areas from what to invest in to where to eat. You’re also going to see, the same way Facebook does, the creation of a private Internet where a lot of transacting happens in a “walled garden,” so to speak. I think this will make decision making more transparent, more social, and more personal. By truly indexing knowledge and providing free access and democratic participation, you will level the playing field. By allowing people to map their tastes against it, you’ll empower the consumer and awaken a very efficient market for competent manufacturers and service providers. This is going to fundamentally damage business models based on inefficiency.
Our system was designed to identify and provide every nuance needed to make a decision.
Content Ping: What advantages does Sortable have over the tried-and-true method of using Google to comparison shop?
Christopher Reid: We’re totally different. Google attempts to find you relevant existing information. Our goal is to use existing information to answer questions, even questions that have never been answered. Google is passive, they index content. We create answers and we have a fundamental goal of involving the consumer in the process.
Content Ping: Currently, it’s only possible to research consumer electronics on Sortable. Do you think the site can be used to successfully search for other categories of products and services?
Christopher Reid: We’ll have cars and restaurants out soon; they’re in the works and people are going to love the experience, probably more so than electronics. We spent two years engineering a very flexible platform that works for any category from TVs to European vacations, so we’ll be rapidly expanding for the foreseeable future.
Content Ping: What can manufacturers do to ensure that their products succeed on a decision engine such as Sortable?
Christopher Reid: Manufacturers can get involved with us. We’ll work with any manufacturer to ensure that their products are accurately reflected in the system. We don’t provide any manufacturer with an advantage over another, but if they want we can ensure that they are fully and properly represented.
Content Ping: What role does product information play?
Christopher Reid: It plays a big role, but to us everything is quantifiable, there is just a scale of difficulty in quantifying different things. For instance, it’s easy to quantify what the weight of a camera is. It’s much harder to quantify how good it will be at shooting indoors, but it’s still possible–we do both. Another example is it’s easy to quantify how many stars a restaurant has or where it’s located, but it’s much harder to say how good the steak is, or the ambiance. Our system was designed to identify and provide every nuance needed to make a decision, so to us it’s not an option.
Content Ping: How does Sortable deal with the challenge of making sure the product features are accurate and complete for a given product?
Christopher Reid: To do this with millions of products is hard–that’s just a fundamental truth–but we utilize many sources, statistics, user feedback, and a bunch of secret sauce to provide the best experience. We’re constantly improving at this and we will continue to do so. Our goal is to lead in having the most complete and deep set of knowledge on the web.
Christopher Reid is CEO and co-founder at Sortable.com. Sortable is his third technology startup; previous to Sortable he ran a boutique private equity firm specializing in real estate. He holds an electrical engineering degree from the University of Waterloo. Outside of his serial entrepreneurial activities, he enjoys cooking and eating great food, time at the beach with his family, practicing yoga, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.