On a search to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping, Bas Hagendijk-Heijns, founder of ITeaal, found the answer and ChopShop was born. Within three months, a prototype was developed: a virtual assistant that arranges the purchase from A to Z within a split second. Leaving out extensive browsing and tedious ordering processes. “I especially hope that smart speakers like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa will speak Dutch in the foreseeable future.”
How would you describe ChopShop in one tweet?
“Finding the right purchase for the best price is a never-ending online search. ChopShop, on the contrary, is the personal shopper who always has time for you.”
What problem does ChopShop solve?
“The way people are purchasing has significantly shifted from off- to online in recent years. The interesting thing is that online shopping seems easy and fast, but that is simply an illusion. An average webshop visit takes around five minutes, with a conversion rate of about 3%. With ChopShop, this work is done for you. For example, if you are looking for a pair of trousers, ChopShop will offer you three options that suit both you and your budget.”
How do you convince the people who ask: “Why should I use ChopShop?”
“Are you tired of browsing the internet for those cute trousers? I recently started something new: ChopShop. When I ask ChopShop for a casual pair of pants, I receive a couple of suggestions on my phone in no time. I can then order with just one command, and don’t need to create an account for every single webshop I buy from. Super handy!”
What is your background? What did you do before?
“Since I was five years old, I have developed a great interest in computers. I discovered all the ins and outs of Windows 95, and, later, the internet. When going to secondary school, I firmly believed that papers would be much nicer if they were built as a website. I decided to work on that and taught myself how to build websites.”
How did that eventually lead to the establishment of the shopping assistant called ChopShop?
“I registered as a freelancer at the Chamber of Commerce on the day I turned eighteen. This with only one goal in mind: setting up a business for all ICT issues. After a couple of successful years, I was asked for a job as a technical application manager at UMC Utrecht. This was followed by more ICT-related roles and tasks in various sectors. In addition, I learned a lot, and was always working on one or more projects. Kevin Bosman and I founded ITeaal in 2016. ITeaal stands for innovative ICT solutions, always tailor made, but for a ‘normal’ price.”
How did the idea for ChopShop arise?
“I became fascinated by the arrival of smart assistants, such as Google Assistant, that could answer my questions. I talked to an entrepreneur who indicated that he spent a lot of time on phone calls to get answers to simple questions. With the smart assistant in mind, I acknowledged – during an online search for trousers – that it takes up a lot of my time, and that I could not be the only one feeling like this. There had to be a solution for that.”
When did you realize that your idea was viable?
“When testing the technical feasibility for a few nights of programming work. Is it possible to record a profile of someone and, based on that, offer a personal shopping experience through innovative and traditional communication channels? After I talked to the assistant for the first time – via Telegram – I knew for sure: this will become the best friend of potential buyers.”
What can ChopShop do?
“ChopShop is new a prototype, which is aimed at the purchase of clothing. Based on social media statements and questions about personal style, a profile is recorded. For example, via the Google Home speaker, but also via WhatsApp or Facebook, you can ask questions such as: “Hey ChopShop! I have a red-carpet drink on Friday, can you look for a nice outfit for me?”
How does the ordering and payment work?
“You don’t need to go through any administration when ordering, this is resolved by speech or a single button. ChopShop knows who you are, where you live and which bank you used for your last payment. You will see a direct iDEAL payment button which directs you to your banking environment. The ordering process is much more compact than in regular webshop environments. Your package will be delivered to your home within a day.”
Do you have any competition?
“I have heard and read about similar startups. However, I do not see them as competitors; in the end we all have a unique functionality and we keep each other on our toes. Who knows, we will join forces later, and maybe we will become ‘strong’ competitors: time will tell.”
Has there been a sign of interest from customers yet?
“At ITeaal, we work with various B2B solutions supported by personal assistance within: from B2B orders to virtual HR assistance. All the lessons learned here at ChopShop can immediately be applied against no cost. In the meantime, a few Dutch retail companies have expressed their interest and participated in the concept development process of ChopShop. We are very much looking forward to our first official partnership.”
How does ChopShop work exactly?
“ChopShop combines personal details, extracted from Facebook and Instagram, with the answers to specifically asked questions to create a user’s profile. Since the products are being labeled with smart ‘tags’ – casual, sporty, business, party etc. – algorithms can easily find the right match. The system learns new words and terms every day, which means that we have already come this far with this smart algorithm. Until now, I have spent around three months on developing ChopShop and I do hope that Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa will speak Dutch any time soon.“
What is the most remarkable user experience so far?
“A friend of mine ordered a pair of jeans lately via Telegram. He phoned me, completely flabbergasted by the fact that the system knew exactly which size he needed and which look he would be going for”.
How do you wish to disrupt the retail sector with ChopShop?
“This is how I see it: ChopShop takes away the functionalities of webshops and creates a new way of attracting customers. Shop owners ‘refill’ their own tags and anticipate on the numbers that can be expected, based on the findings of ChopShop. Also, the advertisement sector will feel the disruption of services like ChopShop: special offers become more personal and proactive. Marketeers will enjoy new opportunities and chances.”
What is your revenue model?
“At this moment, I am working with ‘product feeds’ from which we earn so-called ‘referral-income’. Ultimately, the goal of ChopShop is to attract shop owners, who will pay a certain amount of commission per sold item to us.”
What is on the agenda for the near future?
“A few meetings with retail parties in the Netherlands. The goal of these meetings is to add them to the ChopShop platform and encourage them to invest immediately. This way, we can enlarge ChopShop’s team of experts and bring a minimum viable product to the market at the end of 2018.”
When can you describe yourself a lucky man?
“I consider myself a lucky man when the Dutch-speaking smart assistant can order a shirt in five languages. Of course, it is also important to me when ChopShop has become an established brand and more shop owners affiliate themselves with the concept. In the end, you will be able to buy each product existing in a webstore while enjoying the shopping recommendations of ChopShop.”
*) ChopShop participated in the Accenture Innovation Awards of 2017 (Delightful Consumer Experience).