Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

ShopSquad matches buyers to experts

Service is designed to help you get questions answered about products you're thinking of buying--by people who've already bought them.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read
ShopSquad connects people interested in particular products with those who've already bought them. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

ShopSquad is a peer-to-peer home shopping network. The service connects people shopping for specific items with live, online experts who know the space. If the user then buys an item the expert is recommending, the expert makes affiliate money minus ShopSquad's cut. The service is general but currently appears to be geared toward new parents; there are more experts and products in the baby gear department than any other.

The judges at the Launch conference, where this product was introduced, believe ShopSquad is on to something, but that the demo here only hinted at the company's potential. First, ShopSquad is heavy into video advice, which is impressive to demo but overkill for shopping advice for many people. Second, the service only connects buyers to experts who are ShopSquad users. As the judges pointed out, if it could somehow find experts elsewhere and rope them into an advice session as needed, the available pool of products and experts to discuss them would be much bigger. Conceptually this means the people writing reviews on Amazon could find a new way to profit from that work. There is still the problem of shills for certain products. An expert rating system might help keep this under control.

Tech businesses pioneered the idea of crowd-sourcing customer support, with message boards and through start-ups like Get Satisfaction. Of course, many businesses have tried to use their fans to also sell products, but ShopSquad's capability to automate, institutionalize, and help consumers profit from their expertise is quite smart.