As I've gotten older, buying gifts for people has become more and more of a hassle, as has finding gifts for people to buy for me. Who has the time to sit there for hours, trying to find the right deals, in the right size, at the right store?
I can't tell you how many times I've wished that someone would come along and just do it for me, but that seemed like nothing more than a fantasy.
Or maybe not? Online marketplace Bubbles, which acts almost like a personal shopping assistant, has concluded it’s seed round this week, with further investment of £200,000, the company has revealed to VatorNews. This latest investment takes the total of funding received by the company so far to £500,000.
Investors in the company include Alexander Azarov, Gill Dunsford, Stian Falck and Sacha Backer, along with "mostly private high individuals who have asked to remain anonymous," Bubbles CEO Julian Fisher told me.
The money that the company has raised will be used to invest in three areas: "sales, marketing and new developments," he said.
The London-based Bubbles is a virtual personal shopper for consumers. It works in the background, continuously looking for better products and deals on behalf of the shopper even when offline. The results are based on consumer behavior, buying habits and trend predictions.
Because the search remains live, it is constantly being matched to products, which ensures that buyers never miss a deal and retailers never lose a sale.
While the leaders in the market are eBay and Amazon, Fisher told me, what separates Bubble is that it encompasses the entire shopping experience, not just the end purchase. And, ultimately this is benefitial to both the consumer, as well as to retailers and advertisers.
For the consumer, always having the service running and finding deals saves them time and hassle.
"We perform a function of shopping that is difficult to maximise for the best benefit, ie., an exact match or a cheaper or better product. Critically we do this without the consumer losing any of their need to understand what they are buying, what is available and how it compares to other similar products," said Fisher.
For retailers, it means that consumers are essentially shopping 24/7, which will help move their items faster. And, as for advertisers, Bubble can give them insights into such questions as when, where and what influences buying decisions.
"The conclusion, a purchase, is just one part of shopping. What we provide are the solutions to help advertisers understand why a buyer bought / didn’t buy a product," he said. "Consequently our revenue opportunities lie in the entire shopping process which starts at the beginning and may or may not necessarily end in a purchase."
Founded in May 2012, Bubbles has been operating in beta since end the of August 2013, while the team focuses on onboarding merchants to the platform.
A limited run of social media campaigns to attract consumer activity and feedback, for test purposes, was successful, though, with over 175 merchants coming on in less than 2 months. They offered over 300,000 products. There are also more than 300 retailers in the pipeline, which collectively offer over 2 million products.
Since commencing marketing mid October, the company's growth has been "exponential," Fisher said, with over 30,000 customers using the service.