Fruugo is a finnish startup created in November, 2006 ; with important funding (“tens of millions of euros, employs a workforce of around 100 people” according to TechCrunch) . Still its product is only entering public (yet limited beta) these days. So yes, those facts create some hype around Fruugo : with so long incubation and so many people on board, what are those guys coming with? The promise of Fruugo, as explained on its site, is the following (emphasis is mine):
We want to make it easy for consumers to buy the stuff they want, in their own language and using the payment method they prefer – without the hassle of exchange rates, complex shipping costs, taxes, or staying up all night worrying “am I actually going to get my stuff?” We want to help with all that.
We want to help retailers expand their market from their neighborhood or their local webshop and be able to offer their products all around Europe. Without having to do any extra marketing or massive system upgrades, fraud detection or language translations or, well, lots of extra work. We want to help with all that too.
And we want to make shopping fun. Shopping’s more fun with friends – we want to provide a nice place for friends to meet and talk about shopping, and we hope both consumers and retailers will make some new friends along the way.
So Fruugo seems to be a marketplace enriched with some social shopping features; the innovative part being that Fruugo could ease the buying process for retailers and customers in foreign countries. ArticStartup is giving more details regarding the product:
The company depends on the logistics of the merchants, and hence requires all merchants to guarantee certain levels of shipping speed and reliability, with four shipping options at the moment. […] Fruugo’s including only 30k-40k products in the early phase of the beta in order to better evalute the usage patterns. Once they have figured out a working layout, gathered enough data, and fixed biggest bugs they will start adding multiple merchants offering the same products. Having none overlapping merchants is also why currently some of the products in the service are considerably pricier compared to some other stores. […] Fraud management is going to be a huge task to Fruugo, as Fruugo will take responsibility for all transactions, both merchant-consumer and consumer-merchant. […] So far Fruugo will not introduce any deeper social shopping features, like group shopping. Rather, there are “social traces”, meaning users can review products, seek assistance from other users, and see actions of others. Interestingly, the recent product views and searches of all users appear on the front page in real time (anonymously).
The Fruugo team has posted some early screenshots of its product, screenshots that will likely evolve during the development of the product. The search result pages are really clean and simple (search into categories ; price and color refinements ; no complex faceted navigation…).
The product page is also very simple, presenting the product and purchase options (with “Add to cart” and “Check out now” buttons), and allowing commenting and ratings.
Overall, it seems to me that Fruugo will compete more against Amazon or eBay rather than social shopping destinations or CSEs. The idea of simplifying the process to purchase goods in foreign countries is interesting ; the screenshots are not really impressive and don’t give an idea how this process works… I have registered to the beta, and I hope to get an account soon.