New Leap Commerce App Hoping to “Spark” Conversations About Shopping

Have a question about what tent to buy for your next camping trip, or the best DVD player on the market?

Leap Commerce is hoping to create a place where consumers can go to ask questions and get answers from experts on all kinds of products. “There’s an entirely new evolution around how people are considering or are thinking about purchasing items,” said Amit Chatterjee, Leap’s CEO and co-founder.

He said people are increasingly deliberate when it comes to buying mid-range items, like a dress, a stereo or a refrigerator. It’s not quite a car, but it’s more than picking up a tube of toothpaste. In today’s world, he believes reviews are not enough — you want “consideration from friends, or a buddy.”

While many companies are trying to crack the code on social commerce — and most have failed — Leap Commerce has another spin on the concept, with a lot of its expertise coming from Facebook engineers. Last year, Chatterjee co-founded the company with Karel Baloun, one of the first senior engineers to join Facebook in 2005. He is now Leap’s CTO. Leap’s head of products, Kent Schoen, also worked at the social network, spending five years on product management, marketing and operations for Facebook ads.

On Black Friday, Leap Commerce launched the latest iteration of its shopping app, called Spark.

The application, which is available on iPhone and iPad, is strikingly similar to its first app, Best Decision, except for the ability to get advice from friends and experts. It allows you to search across many e-commerce players by aggregating sites like Amazon and Gilt Groupe. While there’s no shortage of items to browse, the experience is a little clumsy since full-sized product pages from around the Web are scaled down and embedded into the app. To make it easier, however, items can be added to one universal shopping cart, where they can be purchased quickly.

Chatterjee says where the app really shines is in providing a fun, collaborative shopping experience where crowds can chat about some of their favorite items, making it very similar to Quora, the question-and-answer site. For example, he said, if you are considering buying a pair of skinny jeans, you can bring in images and tags from the product inventory, and you can say, “I prefer this pair for the following reasons.” Others can quickly vote up or down, and there are 16 emoticons that allow users to provide quick feedback without having to type a lot.

It’s still early days, but since launching the day after Thanksgiving, Chatterjee said, 2,000 questions have been asked, including 167 in the past 36 hours. He said the goal of Spark is to reduce shopping cart abandonment, since consumers will feel more confident about making purchases. Initially, Leap plans to monetize the app through affiliate fees, but eventually, Chatterjee said, they will have enough data to provide insights on users to brands, which can also propose questions about products on the site to get consumer feedback.

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