Want to know when those shoes go on sale? Or, find a specific handbag for under $200? Today, Mona Labs, is launching a mobile application, simply called Mona, that is designed to be your personal shopping assistant.
The Seattle-based company, which was founded by a group of former Amazon engineers, wants to change the way we shop, turning it from a browse-and-search experience to one that is more automated and personalized.
In an interview, Mona CEO and co-founder Orkun Atik said nothing has changed in e-commerce since the early 2000’s. “Today, shopping is organized around products, and we want to organize it around people,” he said.
He believes customers should be able to tell a software program what they are looking for, and then have it find the item and compare prices, taking much of the leg work out of today’s shopping experience. The concept is similar to how Google Now, Microsoft Cortana or Siri try to use artificial intelligence to understand what you are looking for, and deliver results with very little human interaction.
Prior to co-founding Mona, Atik worked at Amazon for three years, first as product manager of recommendations and later with Local Register, the company’s mobile payments service. His co-founder, Nurettin Dag, also worked at Amazon.com, acting as a founding member of the company’s logistics platform that powered Amazon Fresh grocery delivery and same-day delivery.
The eight-person team has not raised any venture capital, but now plans to focus on fundraising. Today, a beta version of the app goes live on iOS, and customers can request early access via the app on the App Store and on its website.
Once users sign up, customers will be asked to create a mission. This allows Mona to set up specific shopping goals. After stipulating product, style, price, and other attributes, Mona will then be able to send updates to the consumer whenever relevant products and deals are found.
Mona also will help users discover the latest trends, by delivering a “Top 20” list everyday that makes product suggestions based on a person’s preferences.
The idea is that the more you use Mona, the better it will work as it learns more about you.
At launch, Mona will have 100 sites integrated into the system, including a wide range of retailers, like Amazon, Gilt Groupe, Nordstrom and Barney’s. Whenever a purchase is made, Mona will receive a kickback from the retailer, however, commissions are not the company’s ultimate revenue strategy. Over the long-term, Mona wants to become a third-party marketplace, much like Amazon, with the goal of hand-tailoring the experience to each individual visitor.
Of course, to make these recommendations, Mona is doing a lot of heavy lifting in the background. It requests access to your email, where it looks for e-commerce receipts to learn a person’s styles, preferences, size and other details, like whether you shop using gift cards or free shipping. Additionally, customers are able to give more feedback, by saying that they don’t like something because of the brand, style, color or price point.
While other e-commerce companies claim to promote items based on your preferences, and Amazon is obviously an example of a large corporation that prides itself on making solid recommendations based on your shopping history, Mona wants to take it to the next level.
“We really want to change the shopping experience. We want to create new tools, which are organized around people and their missions,” Atik said. “Super new to the market is the concept of granular feedback and email mining. No one has tried this stuff in the past, and based on metrics and feedback from 100 beta testers, it’s very promising.”
Here’s a short video, summarizing the product: