Help: Vision Back to Help

As with any website, the success of PriceShare relies on exposure and user buy-in. The success of PriceShare is slightly more complicated in that it works as a "crowd-sharing" site, meaning that it gets its data by many users making a contribution, as opposed to producer-consumer, where the site produces data and the users only consume. At the end of the day, the site depends on users making a contribution, as the sheer volume of price data required would need a number of paid workers to capture.

Crowd-Sharing, the New Cool

In an age of activism and democracy, the concept of people-power has gained traction. Even in web-space, there is an idea that enough people contributing towards a cause can make a real difference.

When it comes to data, there are numerous applications for shared data. One popular use is road traffic, where users' GPS positions are captured to determine how many cars are on the road. This data is painted onto GPS road maps to show you which routes you might want to avoid, or to help traffic planners determine the areas that need attention.

In the case of PriceShare, with the price capture process being largely manual, there is an obvious case for crowd-sharing. The benefit of being able to analyse prices and compare supermarkets can make this sharing a rewarding experience.

The fact that crowd-sharing is key to PriceShare also creates a risk - if users don't contribute, the site will struggle to function.

The Magic of Data

Once you have sufficient price data available, imagination runs wild with possible applications. Obviously there are the pressing demands of knowing where to do the majority of your shopping.

As with any data applications, you have to work the data into the right format in order to draw any real conclusions. Firstly, you need enough data. Secondly you need to remove dirty data, or items that are messing around unfairly with the averages. Thirdly, you need to localise the data for your user, only sharing what is relevant to their area.

Improving the reliability of data is going to be a pressing issue going forward. PriceShare will need to give users enough options in order to customise the data into a shape that helps them. Irrelevant stores or products will need to be hidden, and that needs to be a set of steps so simple that any technophobe can understand.

Forcing Change

In theory, if PriceShare gains so much traction that a large number of shoppers are changing their shopping habits, then the supermarkets will have to take notice. Basic economic theory teaches that price correction in a competitive environment relies on the speed of knowledge transfer. PriceShare is speeding up how quickly customers acquire shopping knowledge, so in theory, the rate of competitive change could accelerate.

In other words, a store with a loyal customer base can continue to overcharge while their customers know no better. Once the customers learn about other options, the supermarket will either have to lower prices, or risk losing a section of their customer base.

For some chains, especially those with lower prices, it serves their interests for more customers to realise how cheap they are. These chains might agree to cooperate with PriceShare and grant access to their product and price databases.

Commercial Viability

As a small project on the side, PriceShare might be able to operate quietly without significant financial input. If the site gains any kind of real traction, the server costs will rise quickly, along with the cost of paying developers and even support staff.

The costs of running the site are likely to be a factor, and will require monetisation at some point. The most likely form will be advertising, but there is also the option of charging a small fee for access to advanced features or advanced reports. Getting the right balance between free access and paid features would be tricky, as always. The early idea is that advanced features can also be accessed for free by contributing enough to price information via receipts, etc, thus keeping the site effectively free for all users, while still meeting costs through the payments of those who are happy to contribute financially.