San Francisco-based start-up Fresh recently launched its social product testing and review site for consumer electronics and home and kitchen gadgets.
The company says it connects socially influential consumers with manufacturers to create "credible and trustworthy" reviews. It rewards users who share their desire to try out a product by increasing the odds they will receive said product, thereby gaining exposure for the site as well.
"The tradition today is to send a product to CNET to provide a review and call the reviewer an expert," says CEO Stephen Svajian. "We give (products) to an engaged group of users. Instead of an expert, (manufacturers) get to send it to consumers and consumers end up reviewing the product."
Fresh requires users to verify themselves using Facebook. When a user wants to sign in, he or she receives the message, "Facebook login allows us to provide more credible reviews and build a better community."
As of Thursday, Facebook says 1,000 people use the app. However, according to Svajian, Fresh has about 2,000 reviewers following a post-launch bump. The site has been up since early December, but the company officially launched February 5.
The homepage features about 36 products, like the Click and Grow Smart Flowerpot and Swivl Personal Cameraman. About five have reviews so far.
Once a user has identified a product they'd like to try, they click, "Try It!" and are placed at the end of the line of users who have clicked, "Try It!" before them. Users are then given the option to share a "special link" on Twitter or Facebook or via email to move ahead in line. The link tracks shares.
Each product page contains video and images. It also provides the manufacturer's name, website, Facebook page, Twitter handle and estimated ship date, along with a reviewer leaderboard that displays who is in what place and how many invites they have. Invites are the number of friends who have received the special link and also signed up to receive a given product. In turn, the more invites they send out, the higher up they, too, will go, and so on.
Manufacturers send products to customers at the front of the line. Svajian says Fresh currently sends out anywhere from five to 100 products per item, but is "still experimenting."
The customers either get to keep the product or return it at no cost.
Once reviewers have a chance to try the product, they answer questions posed by fellow users. Fresh says there is no way to guarantee a review, but "when someone is proactively volunteering to review a product, we trust that their intentions are sincere."
According to Fresh, its model is replacing the star rating system "with more relevant and unbiased feedback" in part because the star system attracts "extremity reviews" in which the majority of reviewers give either one or five stars. Instead, Fresh asks reviewers if they'd recommend the product to a friend.
The main user is 25 to 35 years old, skews male and has social influence, Svajian says.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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