There is help at hand for online shoppers
Talk about handy. Techno buff Robin Landy has created a real-time internet tool that automatically finds the lowest prices, without using a price comparison website.
Called InvisibleHand, the free download informs you when and where there are lower prices available on the product or service you are searching for. So, while you are sizing up an item, InvisibleHand is monitoring other stores and sites for better deals, subtly alerting you on your toolbar if and where it is available at a lower price.
It covers hundreds of major retailers and brands including John Lewis, British Airways, Amazon and Boots.
Launched in August 2009 the start-up has received more than 2.6 million downloads, finding £105 million worth of savings for UK users and for US users, over $500 million. Its average saving in the UK on products is £6.64 and in the US, $10.94.
The tool is available for all major web browsers including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, which has recommended the service, and Mozilla Firefox, which lists it as one of the greatest Firefox add-ons of all time.
InvisibleHand gives you the cheapest price for what you are looking for
A former information architect Mr Landy, 32, came up with the idea while he was working at digital agency Forward Internet Group. "I was shopping for an iPod online but found it difficult and frustrating to find the best deal on the specific one I wanted. When you get an email, it comes directly to you -- you don't have to search for it. It should be the same with retail. The best price should come to you.
"Users shouldn't have to change their shopping habits or the sites they want to shop on."
He pitched the idea to the Group's founder who agreed to finance it. It has since been making the headlines, featured on BBC programme Click and in The New York Times, USA Today and the Guardian, among other publications.
Initially aimed at DVDs, books and games, the business has expanded to travel and car rentals with a daily deals service on the agenda. What about clothes? "This is our weak spot and something we are addressing."
He says: "When you are booking a trip you shouldn't have to open 25 different tabs and do multiple searches. We are cutting out the legwork."
InvisibleHand takes a commission on any sale made on its suggested retailer or service. Although Mr Landy is reluctant to disclose financials he says the company is aiming to achieve "tens of millions of downloads" this year and will shortly be launching complementary iPhone and iPad apps. "We have been going for around two years and are heading in the right direction. The vision is to cover absolutely anything so whenever anyone shops for something online, we will be there to give users the best prices."
Mr Landy, who lives in north London and has a masters in human-computer interaction from University College London, acknowledges setting up the company has been challenging.
"There is a lot that goes along with start-ups such as building and managing a team and financials. But it has also been really fun and rewarding knowing that you are making a difference to the way people use the internet."