Slyce pictures a day when consumers will be able to buy anything depicted in a TV or printed advertisement — or even a product seen in person — by snapping a photo of it with their mobile device.
"We want to allow the consumer to consume when they want to," says Erika Racicot, cofounder of Slyce, which is currently beta testing its mobile app.
Once consumers link a card to the Slyce app, they can use their smartphone camera to take pictures of items for recognition. Slyce then sends the consumer to a product page within the app, which offers the product from a Slyce merchant partner. If no Slyce partners offer the product, Slyce sends shoppers to a merchant that sells the pictured item.
The app can also work with QR codes and recognize spoken requests.
While most companies are wary about directing customers off their site, Slyce "wants to be able to allow consumers to discover and purchase," Racicot says. "If we're providing them with results and the ability to make a purchase [right then] they'll come back."
Slyce, of Calgary, Alberta, plans to offer its mobile app for free to consumers. Merchants will pay a subscription fee based on their size, plus Slyce will take a 6% to 10% fee on every purchase it facilitates.
Slyce must keep things simple and convenient enough that consumers will want to keep using it, says Todd Ablowitz, president of Centennial, Double Diamond Group LLC.
"For a marketplace, the key thing to success is that consumers need to know that when they're going to that place they're getting value one way or another … to stick with it," Ablowitz says. If Slyce "finds a formula to make it frictionless in getting it everywhere it would seem that it'd have a great chance of success."
The Canadian startup recently closed its first round of funding with $3.75 million to build out its one-click purchase product.
"The ability to take a picture of an item, have it identified and then purchase it isn't out there," Racicot says. "We want to provide an end-to-end solution … as opposed to it being kind of a one off."
The app is currently in testing with about 300 bloggers, affiliates, small brands and others signed up to take part, says Racicot. Twelve Canadian retailers, ranging from home decor to fashion and accessories, are already using Slyce's platform.
The company hopes to have 1,000 beta testers soon and 10,000 people using its app by the end of the year, she says.
"What a cool idea," Ablowitz says. "It's been a dream for years for brands and retailers that when consumers see an ad on TV or in a magazine they can just get it right then."
In 2009, Amazon.com Inc. acquired SnapTell, a startup that focused on image recognition for use in mobile marketing. The technology identifies products when a consumer snaps a picture and then sends the user to the Amazon.com page where the product can be purchased.
At PayPal's Commerce Innovation Center in New York, the eBay subsidiary discusses image recognition as a technology that would enable consumers to shop after store hours by taking photos of items through the store window.
"Companies are working wonders with technology to make commerce happen and one of the fun things is that payments are such a core part of that," Ablowitz says.