Story Behind the Scene

Personal Shopping Assistant, a new browser extension from Microsoft Garage, automatically remembers products you browse, so you don’t have to

Photo credit: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures.

The Microsoft team that created Personal Shopping Assistant (left to right) Gaurav Jain, Jaana Huotari, Jason Dong, Sid Banothu, Gagan Chopra, Zhaoji Chen, Kun Shao, Gabe O'Leary, Zhuoqing Wu, Anand SampathKumaran, Supratim Roy Chaudhury, Gunyoung Han.

If you shop online for products, you probably end up with a lot of open tabs on your browser, trying to compare sites to find the best deals. Now, with a new browser extension called Personal Shopping Assistant, you can bridge web, mobile and in-store shopping journeys into one fluid experience.

Released through the Microsoft Garage, this tool acts as a digital memory for online research, which can go on for days and weeks. It keeps track of product pages on different sites, and makes it easy to set up comparisons between them.

Anand Sampathkumaran, Gagan Chopra and Gaurav Jain are part of the Personal Shopping Assistant team. They used to run the Bing Ads marketplace, where they picked up experience with algorithms, matching and ranking.

About 18 months ago, the team started looking at browser data on shopping experiences, particularly those looking at laptops to buy. Their shopping journeys lasted weeks and weeks, as they kept going back to a few products over and over again.

“The Eureka moment is when we realized people have a basket of about 10 products in their head and we could help them make better decisions,” Sampathkumaran says. “We didn’t want them to leave the browser, so we gave them a comparison tool across sellers to see product pages side by side.”

“We launched a quest for personalization,” says Chopra. “As the very first thing as part of this quest, we learned how to observe people, so they get more satisfaction for what they do. We saw how the dots were connecting.”

Personal Shopping Assistant has a price check feature that automatically alerts users when the product they’ve been tracking goes down in price, so they can make informed decisions on the best times to buy.

“This tool doesn’t tell you what to buy or where, but it’s doing mechanical jobs we’d have to otherwise do ourselves,” Chopra says. “It tells you where else you can buy what you’re looking for and monitors it. This last part makes it much more satisfying and has really taken off on the personalization aspect. What it sees and remembers is based on their data and what is pertinent to them.”

Most importantly, he adds, using this tool doesn’t interfere with the usual workflow to shopping and researching products.

“This tool sits with you and doesn’t require you to do any work,” Chopra says.

Sampathkumaran thinks that one of this personal assistant’s biggest features is that it automatically remembers products, key details about it (such as the price) and where users saw it. These automatic captures can be favorited later. The team also found through their user studies that people wanted recommendations on other places to buy items they were interested in – and it’s worked, saving users hundreds of dollars.

“Not having to keep tabs open excites users,” says Jain. “Getting the best deal from other places or the same merchants keeps them going and brings them back.”

Personal Shopping Assistant is one of many apps and updates recently released through the Garage, the outlet for Microsoft teams around the world to get experimental apps and projects out to the public.

“Seeing some of the projects Garage has done gave us confidence about the decisions we were making along the way. With Garage, we can try things in the market under the Microsoft umbrella, without an existing brand,” Chopra says. “There’s also now more openness and willingness to allow small groups to work together and use open source tools and platforms. With fewer resources, we can do more. Garage facilitates that. We can take something from end to end without requiring resources across the organization.”

The team also credits Garage with providing them with the completion of essential tasks to complete the product, such as design, branding, trademark and go-to-market consultation.

“We embarked on this project a year ago, and when we talked to Garage two months ago, we found a home,” Sampathkumaran adds. “We are completely aligned with Garage’s consumer-centric focus.”

Personal Shopping Assistant is a global-first product, ready for multi-currency and multi-country use, but it does have a U.S. English-based interface.

Download Personal Shopping Assistant for free and find more projects at the Garage.