Last winter, I spent a good hour shopping online for the perfect black leather boots. I used tabbed browsing to open at least 25 Web pages, comparing each pair’s cost, heel height, zipper, leather and toe style. I emailed a friend with links to a few sites so I could get her opinion. And when I finally decided on the right pair, I dug through my email inbox to find a coupon code for 20% off.
This week I tested a solution that might have made my quest for boots a little simpler. Snipi, which became available as a free download from Snipi.com on Monday, helps you organize your online-shopping results by gathering, or “snipping,” product information from Web pages and saving the information to lists.
These lists are stored on your personalized Snipi page, where you can access them later. Snipi also can save photos and videos to lists. And it has a coordinating iPhone app that shows up-to-date versions of the lists created on the computer, so you can have them with you on the go.
To do all this, you use the Snipi Toolbar, a horizontal window that pops up within your browser so you never have to navigate away from the site where you’re shopping. If you see an item you like, simply drag and drop an image of it into the toolbar, where details about the item — including its title, price and image — are automatically filled in. If the item was previously snipped by another Snipi user, a description box will be filled with whatever that person wrote or pasted in from the product page; you can fill in the box yourself, too.
Snipi has a partnership with Shopzilla Inc., so the Snipi Toolbar also has comparison shopping built in: It displays links to Web sites where your snipped product, or products like it, can be found at lower prices.
One of the big drawbacks to Snipi is that it currently works only as a browser plug-in with Mozilla’s Firefox, not Microsoft’s (MSFT) Internet Explorer or Apple’s (AAPL) Safari. Snipi says it plans to introduce versions of its toolbar — though less functional ones — for IE and Safari by early to mid-June. Even so, downloading and installing a browser plug-in isn’t yet a routine thing for most people. And often, people who use plug-ins forget to keep them up-to-date.
Another downside to Snipi is that its comparison-pricing feature failed with apparel. The feature only really worked when used with “hard goods” like electronics, which are sold at retailers that participate in price-comparison networks. Yet Snipi still makes pricing suggestions for clothing and shoes, however irrelevant. For example, when I snipped a $150 Banana Republic dress, a link to $16 eye shadow sold at Sephora.com appeared in the Price Compare column. To reduce confusion, Snipi shouldn’t make such suggestions for apparel.
A handy feature built into the Snipi Toolbar lets you immediately share items via email or post them on Facebook, Twitter or WordPress blogs. This would have been useful while I was shopping online for boots because I could have more quickly shared my finds with friends, rather than copying and pasting URLs into emails.
While browsing on BestBuy.com (BBY), I found a Sony (SNE) Cybershot DSC-W220 with 12 megapixels and a 4x zoom lens for $199. Selecting a small icon in the Firefox browser’s bottom right corner, I opened the Snipi Toolbar and created a “Digicams” list, including the Sony. Snipi suggested alternative prices for this camera, including $159 for the same thing on Amazon.com (AMZN).
I got an early start on bathing-suit shopping by browsing Web sites for J. Crew, Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s. As expected, the price-comparison suggestions didn’t make sense. For one $58 Victoria’s Secret bathing suit, Snipi suggested a list of alternatives, including a $170 Kohler shower door, $203 Giorgio Armani glasses and an $82 corded telephone. I assure you that the bathing suit looked nothing like any of those items.
Confusing alternatives aside, I liked using the Snipi Toolbar as a place to gather my online research. It displayed images of items neatly lined up in a row, and when I selected an item, the description appeared. Someone like my sister, who is planning a wedding, might enjoy using the Snipi Toolbar for saving photos of various locations in a list she could call “Wedding Venues.” She could then share the entire list with me in one step. Or she could go visit some of the places and bring an iPhone with the Snipi app to see her list.
I tried the iPhone app, and it was a cinch to tap My Lists to see the online research I’d gathered. Here, as on the browser toolbar, visuals make it easy to glance through many products.
The toolbar can save various lists that you name and categorize into Shop, Photos or Videos, and these can be kept private, shared with friends or made public. Public lists are seen by all other users on Snipi.com, which is also a social-networking site. I wouldn’t use it as such, because I already rely on other social-networking outlets, but some people might.
Snipi, which uses a guessing algorithm to fill in details like a product’s price, says its toolbar will improve as more people use it. If you do a lot of research or online shopping or you simply want an online tool for saving images and videos from the Web, Snipi will work well for you. Its price-comparison suggestions need some improvement, but I felt more organized after using the Snipi Toolbar for a week’s worth of browsing.
Edited By Walter S. Mossberg