April 23, 2013, 12:04 PM

Sharing online shopping—and feelings—with friends

BevyUp lets friends on different computers share opinions as they shop together online.

Lead Photo

Mauricio Cuevas

Why do teenage shoppers go to the mall in groups? Because it’s fun, of course. There’s nothing like looking at products and sharing comments about them as you do. No need to even text, call or e-mail to ask what friends think of some must-have skinny jeans and loop earrings.

Now start-up company BevyUp is offering a way to get a similar experience online, while letting friends join in the shopping fun from wherever they happen to be.

BevyUp last week introduced a social shopping application that lets shoppers on a retail e-commerce site invite a friend into a co-shopping session, during which they can follow each other’s cursor as it points to products on a web page. Each shopper can insert sentiment icons designed by the retailer to show how they feel about an item, such as Really Pretty, Don’t Love It, Good Value, Keeper, Modern and Vintage. Retailers can also give shoppers the option to write in their own comments. A co-shopper inserts an icon with her name—or her uploaded photo—which lets the original shopper keep a record of who’s commented on which products.

BevyUp also provides additional social features, such as letting co-shoppers engage in video chat. The shopper starting a session can click a BevyUp button on a participating retailer’s product page to invite a friend through e-mail or a social media site.

Mauricio Cuevas, CEO and co-founder and a former head of international product development at Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine, says BevyUp was designed to go beyond social sites like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to create a real-time co-shopping experience designed to be both useful and fun.

BevyUp appears to have done that, says Penny Gillespie, an e-commerce analyst at technology research and advisory firm Gartner Inc. “I’d be surprised if it’s not well-embraced, particularly by the younger generation of shoppers,” she says. “This takes online shopping to the next level.”

The BevyUp application, which doesn’t require shoppers to download any software, is currently set up to accommodate only two friends shopping simultaneously on either a personal computer or tablet computer; a smartphone version is also planned.

The shopper who initiated the co-shopping session can save it, however, and then invite other friends to co-shop with her one at a time. After multiple co-shopping sessions, the initial shopper can view and share a summary showing the sentiment icons placed by each of her friends on each product considered. Eventually, BevyUp plans to allow up to five friends to shop simultaneously, says Brian Toba, co-founder and chief technology officer, who is a former senior developer at Microsoft in voice over IP and video-conferencing technology and a former consumer markets researcher at Procter & Gamble.

BevyUp is also designed as a means of compiling information about shoppers’ interests that retailers can use to fine-tune their marketing and merchandising efforts, Toba says. “We track sentiments expressed for each product along with purchasing information, so we can show which shopping emotion went with each purchase,” he says.

For now, BevyUp is making that data available only to the host retailer, but it will eventually consider making aggregate shopping data available to multiple participating retailers, Toba says.

BevyUp is being piloted by e-commerce sites in the retail categories of jewelry, wedding products and travel services, though the company declines to name any of its clients.

Deploying the BevyUp co-shopping application requires a retailer to install HTML code in a process that takes about an hour, Cuevas says. “Within an hour, we can make a site fully enabled to consumers for co-shopping,” he says.

BevyUp charges fees per co-shopping session ranging from $0.40 to $1.50, depending on a retailer’s product line and volume of sessions.

Seattle-based BevyUp’s other co-founders are chief operating officer Chris Rallo, a former management consultant to companies in online travel, retail and services industries; and Reymarx Gereda, vice president of technology, who is a former senior developer on Microsoft’s Windows networking and Windows International technology teams.

The company is backed by angel investors that it has not identified.

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