Online shopping is becoming the norm for so many of the things we buy to keep, such as cars, electronics and even homes. We can compare different models online, get reviews and shop around for the best prices. But how do you know which detergent is best on your undies when you’re standing in the aisle at your local Big Box or whether the new deodorant you’re thinking of trying is going to leave you stinking up your cubicle halfway through the day?
Consmr wants to answer those questions and more with their new iOS app, giving you all the reviews and recommendations we expect of online shopping without resorting to a bunch of hit-or-miss Googling. The question is whether this little app can pack the one-two punch of the reviews found on retailer sites combined with a large catalog of products. So does it? Hit the jump to find out.
Grabbing the Shopping Cart
Getting started, you’ll want to search for a product, either by scanning its barcode or manually typing in its name. Assuming the product is in their database — and I was hard pressed to come up with a consumable that wasn’t — you’ll be brought to its product page. There are tabs for reviews, suggested alternatives and stores nearby that have the product in stock. You can also rate the product yourself from this screen.
Consmr is fairly new, so many products have few reviews if any, and many of them are negative, probably because it often seems to be the things we hate that we seek out to review. That said, if you’re at the store and want to know if the sugar substitute you’re buying is going to make your cake taste like foot, it’s nice to have a review at hand letting you know which brands taste like foot and which don’t.
The alternatives tab and the tab to locate the products at local stores were often blank. The alternatives aren’t editable by the user, so that will likely fill up as more products are scanned and categorized. Locating things nearby on the other hand, is entirely dependent on the stores in your area making their inventory available to be searched. Most of mine didn’t make that available however, so I didn’t get a lot of pings on nearby products.
Ratings products is simple and is based on a five-star system. You have the option to add an opinion or any tips you want to share, but that isn’t required. However, you can earn expert status by posting multiple opinions on different products in the same categories, boosting your clout in the Consmr clique.
Browsing the Aisles
If you’re looking to try something new, but you’re not sure what you want and have time to browse, you can try the categories under the search menu. The categories are broken down into headings like grocery, baby, and skin care. From there you can choose the category you want to search, tap a sub category, and receive a listing of everything Consmr has to offer.
However, if you need to get more specific, you can apply a wide range of very precise and very useful filters, tailored to each category. For instance, the “curly hair” filter pops up in hair care but not in skincare. You can choose as many or as few filters as you want before viewing your search results. As a bonus, the results can be sorted by ratings, popularity or straight alphabetical order.
My List allows you to save products to a personalized list to shop for, to review or to further research. I don’t know how well Consmr’s list would work as a grocery store shopping list, however it is possible to scan everything in your pantry and save it to your Consmr list. That way, you would have a personalized database with you all the time of the things you normally keep in your kitchen.
What’s in Stock?
I found everything I searched for in my pantry, every single thing. This is saying quite a bit about Consmr, because I’m a vegan and I have some pretty weird and hard-to-find stuff on my shelves. I wasn’t expecting Consmr to have stored things like textured soy protein or powdered egg replacer, but there they were, with color pictures and reviews.
Not everything I scanned had a fully built out product page, however. Some pretty basic stuff, like name brand chips or cooking oil, didn’t have a picture, reviews or really any content. I suppose that’s for me to fill in to let other users know about my experiences, but it’s still a letdown to see that blank page pop up.
The only thing I’ve seen so far that’s been left out are more durable household items. I recently spent half an hour in the grocery store trying to choose a new mop. I really had no idea which to pick, so I turned to Consmr — which didn’t recognize a single mop in the entire store. I scanned and scanned, and then I gave up scanning and started typing in my searches. Alas, Consmr had no mop reviews. Consmr could have been a real help to me here, and I felt it left my high and dry.
My biggest disappointment with Consmr came when I was searching for cleaning products. Being vegan, I’m always looking for animal-friendly alternatives I can use without trudging out to the natural foods store across town, and I hoped to find something new at my local Big Box. When I applied the cruelty free filters, Consmr eliminated a whole range of products I know to be vegan favorites (and the companies hadn’t started clubbing baby seals when I wasn’t looking). Somewhere, the animal-friendly box hadn’t been ticked for those items, and a lot of products were being filtered out. I repeated this using different filters and categories and saw products come and go for no reason other than that they were misclassified.
Despite the filtering snafu, though, Consmr is a great app. It only has certain categories of products (and mops aren’t one of them), but it’s a huge help when looking for reviews for the products it does list. The filters really get in the way of searching rather than effectively narrowing your search, but Consmr can’t be beat when it comes to giving you quick, snapshot reviews of individual products with a fast scan. When you’re standing in the grocery store aisle, wondering if you should pull the trigger on that toothpaste purchase, that’s all you really need.