Gear and Gadgets

The Hunt – A Mobile Shopping Revolution

[Image - Vadim Sherbakov]
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

There is nothing worse than spotting an amazing product on Facebook or Pinterest, only to swiftly discover that you have absolutely no idea where to get it. The Hunt – a ‘community-powered’ mobile app recently launched in the UK – could be the perfect solution.

Based in San Francisco and founded by tech entrepreneurs Tim Weingarten and Simon Peck, the app has the potential to revolutionise the way we shop online. Users simply take a picture of something that they love, post it on The Hunt with their specified size and budget, and the community helps them find it.

Already well-established in the US following its launch in 2013, and positioned as “The Cure for Outfit Envy”, an uptake in global users paved the way for the app’s UK launch in November.

So far, The Hunt has accumulated 3 million registered users who have started over 5 million hunts, and with celebrity backers including actor Ashton Kutcher and fashion icon Tyra Banks, its transformation of the online shopping universe is well and truly underway.

We caught up with Tim Weingarten, Co-Founder and CEO of the app, to chat about developing a visual Q&A, ‘fashion shopping without the hassle’ and ways The Hunt can work for modern dads.

Talk to us about The Hunt?

Well there is this deep-rooted frustration that occurs when you see a picture online or on an app, where you say to yourself I love that, but where do I get it on my budget, my style, my body, my fit and to suit the occasion I’m going to? That’s what The Hunt is all about!

A distinctly modern problem?

When we scroll through our social media, we are constantly being inspired as to what we want to wear, the items we would like in our house and things we just generally want to buy. One of the biggest challenges or frustrations is that you can’t take action on these photos, they are just things other users have posted and so we built The Hunt to solve that problem. It allows you to take action and get those products, helping you find whatever you want.

Built from experience?

Yeah, I’m always scrolling through Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook, and would see all of these photos – I love men’s fashion – so this has very much been created from experience. I would see a great blazer and think where can I get something like that. What we’ve built through The Hunt has taken the question and answer model and applied it to these products – it’s almost a visual Q&A. The system works by taking the photo you’ve seen, you upload it alongside your budget and your requirements, and our community of 3 million users go off and find products that are similar or meet your guidelines.

Quality over quantity?

Our mission is to get you a few great products, a few great answers, for whatever you’re looking for. It’s an inverse really of Google and the web, which aims to give you the most of anything, as many possibilities, but when it comes to mobile and shopping, what people want is a few great suggestions that match what they really need.

Was the idea for the app a ‘light-bulb’ moment?

It was a combination – like with building any new app or start-up – of identifying the problem you want to solve and the solution you want to build. For us, it was this instant moment around the frustration of the problem, something we were experiencing personally. On the idea side, it all comes back to what we call visual Q&A, the platform we built to gamify shopping. This came from a series of conversations with potential users and girls who like to shop – we only got to the design we have today by getting lots of user feedback. So a light-bulb moment for the problem and constant tweaking in order to get to the point where The Hunt really works.

Biggest challenges in building The Hunt?

I would say the biggest challenge has just been getting the product right, I mean there’s no silver bullet or one right answer, so it’s been taking our vision combined with what the data tells us and constantly trying to evolve the product to make it loved, habitual and addictive for our users. Our task has been creating a product people love, something that’s no easy task, especially when everyone has access to millions of apps every day through their smartphones.

You’re experiencing fatherhood yourself – how does this app fit into the daily life of a modern dad?

Two ways, number one is gifting. The Hunt is a great place to go to see what the woman in your life is interested in, or even your daughter. Using the demographics of the app, you can easily find out what types of gifts the people in your life are hunting and things they’re interested in buying. Number two, for a lot of dads and men in general, fashion is a challenging area, where you don’t know what’s on trend or what pair of jeans will work for you and problems like that.

So how do we make the most of the app?

The Hunt has different search options, one where you can even upload a selfie and describe the occasion you’re going to. You can say you’re looking for some new work clothes or just new outfits, whatever you want to say. You can mention your budget, height and body type, and our community will actually go out and act as your personal stylist. So they’re not searching for a specific product but giving you options, something that’s really useful for men, who don’t always know what they want or what to wear but want to look good on a limited budget. It’s easy and fast – just what guys want!

Were there any difficulties with extending to the UK market?

The challenge has been that although we have strong usage in the UK, the hunts that are being started by UK members are mixing with hunts from America and around the world, and you really want your hunt solved with products that are available in your country or can be shipped from the UK. We will soon be introducing a geographic version of the app that will allow you to select your country or location in order to specify browsing to your country – so UK members will have access to UK solutions, ensuring they get a better experience overall.

Do you use The Hunt?

Absolutely, I remember right when we first started, I posted this white dress shirt with black leather trim, I’d seen someone wearing it and put it up looking for something similar. Within 48 hours, a guy in Asia had found it and responded, and I was thinking ‘wow, this really works!’ Getting involved in the community really drives a sense of collaborative action. Now I post sneakers and blazers and it’s really great to see so many successful hunts.

The Hunt app is designed for iOS7 / iOS8 and available to download for free from the App Store or on Android.