TrackIf allows consumers to do more than simply compare prices. They can also see how prices change over time.
More than 9,000 people are tracking the prices on various KitchenAid mixers through TrackIf, an online service that started last year in Minnetonka. And about the same number of shoppers are using the tool to keep tabs on the Canon PowerShot digital camera.
When the price drops on those items, they get an e-mail alert from TrackIf. They can also be notified when a coveted handbag or toy comes back in stock or when their favorite designer brand adds a new item.
But TrackIf doesn’t just monitor products. It also tags vacations, job postings and houses. It tracks more than 2.5 million items on about 1,600 websites including the likes of Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy.
“It’s like a reverse search engine,” said Doug Berg, the founder of TrackIf. “It’s me running around putting Post-it notes on stuff and letting the Web come to me, instead of me always having to waste my time looking for stuff.”
The advent of e-commerce has ushered in a new era of transparency in which comparing prices is just a few clicks away. For some time, Web tools have helped consumers find the lowest price on a certain item at any given moment.
TrackIf is part of a newer crop of websites and apps that are indexing the web to track the movement of prices. They provide historical price data and alert shoppers when items they’ve been eyeing go on sale or become available for purchase.
Nifti, Camelcamelcamel, PoachIt, and WorthIt are some of the other competitors in this space. One of the most well-known price trackers was Hukkster, a company that folded earlier this month after burning through its cash. That New York-based start-up had raised about $4.5 million and drew high-profile investors such as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who famously sued Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
But while TrackIf is not as well known, Berg has already raised about $4 million for the company, mostly from angel investors in two rounds of funding.
He hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls of Hukkster by bringing in money not just from affiliate sales when a user buys something from a website but also by convincing retailers to embed his technology into their websites.
“I’ve done two other pretty large start-ups here in Minneapolis, so I know how to do the black magic of member acquisition and cost control,” he added.
TrackIf, which is supported by a team of about 20 people, has already reached more than 400,000 users mostly through word of mouth.
The company has also been working diligently on search-engine optimization so the website might pop up when people are searching for items on Google and by reaching out to mommy bloggers.
Berg, a serial entrepreneur, founded Techies.com, a job recruitment company that raised more than $100 million and nearly went public during the first Internet craze that ended in 2001. The company closed a few years later.
“But I always thought in my mind, ‘Wow, the shopping world has the same problem that the career world has, which is that most people who visit sites don’t buy stuff,’ ” he said.
On top of that, companies spend a lot of money these days subscribing to dynamic pricing engines that provide real-time data on price fluctuations on their competitors’ websites.
“But the consumer doesn’t know what is going on with a price tag on a given day,” Berg said. “This really gives the consumer access to the same data and levels the playing field for them.”