Socialvest, the Atlanta-based startup founded around the idea that shopping online can benefit others, as well as the people doing the shopping, today announced the general availability of their official iPhone app. With the app, users can shop at their usual ecommerce venues from their iPhone, while also accruing funds to donate to charities signed up with the startup.
The iPhone app is a natural extension of what Socialvest has been doing from its website and browser extensions (available on Firefox, IE, Safari and Chrome). The workings aren’t complicated; retailers often pay affiliate fees when third parties initiate transactions at their online marketplaces anyway, but with Socialvest, those affiliate fees end up going into a pool the user can then redeem with a charity of their choosing. 100 percent of the funds generated via the affiliate commission goes to charity, while Socialvest, which is unabashedly a for-profit entity, garners an additional commission from its partner retailers on top of the usual affiliate arrangement.
Socialvest boasts 1.5 million charitable causes on its site, and hundreds of partner retailers, all of which are transparent about what percentage of purchases made through the service will be provided to the charity of their choosing. For shoppers, the benefit is that while buying something you’d likely purchase anyway, you can do a little good at the same time.
In an interview, Socialvest founder Adam Ross explained that he thinks mobile is the perfect venue for the kind of services his company provides.
“We’ve taken a lot of what we’ve built for the desktop and moved it to mobile, starting with the iPhone as our first native app,” he said. “Consumers can shop from their phone, give from their phone, do price comparison search and earn money for a cause.”
That last bit is particularly noteworthy, according to Ross, since he points out that comparison shopping via mobile phone is already incredibly popular (a recent study showed that 38 percent of people use their phones to compare prices, in fact). Socialvest on the iPhone incorporates a barcode scanner, so that users can scan items directly and see what the prices are like at the startup’s partner retailers.
As for competitors, Socialvest has a unique model, so directly, it isn’t facing much. Indirectly, however, it has to compete with startups looking to provide rewards to users themselves, in the form of rebates and discounts in return for customer loyalty, including companies like LevelUp, PunchTab and Referly. Ross still believes what Socialvest is doing appeals differently to consumers.
“When you look at the rewards sort of things, you’ve got a question of relative value,” he said. “In our model you’re going to earn a buck here, five bucks there, and that for a person is not meaningful. We think it’s a lot more compelling that you can help a cause than that you get, say, $100 back at the end of a year.”
Socialvest’s mobile push could be a great help towards wider consumer adoption, especially since the company also hopes to address Android devices, and the iPad, which is recognized as one of the fastest growing ecommerce channels for web-based shopping. But ultimately, as simple as the process is, it’ll still come down to whether or not users are motivated enough to seek out a third party option to help them give while they get.