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Turning to apps like Amazon (download for iOS and Android), Target (download for iOS and Android) or Walmart (download for iOS and Android) for product recommendations is like turning to Facebook (download for iOS and Android) quizzes to learn more about yourself, Trump's Twitter (download for iOS and Android) assertions to make sense of climate change or paid Instagram (download for iOS and Android) influencers for advice on fasting products. It's just not the way to go.

E-commerce veterans Elizabeth Shaffer and Lizzy Brockhoff, who previously worked as product managers at online retailers Jet (download for iOS and Android) and Moda Operandi (download for iOS), knew there had to be a better way to help customers make purchasing decisions than bombarding them with influencer marketing, sponsored content and dubious reviews.

"From our own consumer research we knew that shoppers were feeling overwhelmed with the number of options available online, and increasingly skeptical of reviews and 'paid-for' influencer posts," Brockhoff said. "As this skepticism of paid-for content has seeped into consumer consciousness, we noticed a shift toward consumers reverting back to the people they trust for recommendations."

So Shaffer and Brockhoff launched MASSE (download for iOS), a social shopping app to help consumers cut through the clutter online and find the best products, guided by real recommendations from fellow shoppers. What's more, Masse, which takes its name from the French term "en masse" or altogether, amasses all these recommendations from real people onto one well-organized platform, so shoppers can find what they're looking for quickly.

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After completing the speedy sign-up process, users are encouraged to build a team of trusted influencers using their existing contacts or by adding suggested super users -- or "super-helpers" -- who are excited to rave about their favorite products and answer questions.

You'll then be prompted to send your first question out to the community, like "What are everyone's favorite running shoes?". Then pick the product category that your search falls under -- in this case, Fashion or Sports & Outdoors -- and tap the Ask button. As long as you opt in, you will receive notifications as people respond to your query.

If you're shy, you can explore products by user, question or one of over three million user-suggested products from brand partners including Walmart, Jet, Sephora, Everlane, Nordstrom, Glossier and Maisonette, organized by categories such as Beauty, Home & Baby, Health & Wellness and more and easily purchased from the app.

Sure, consumers can always just shop those sites directly, but on MASSE, they can browse even more confidently, knowing that there is no paid-for or sponsored content and that all product recommendations are legitimate, thanks to automated flags and flags from the community that identify suspicious content and moderations tools to review and remove it.

What's more, MASSE has no editorial viewpoint, so search results are never skewed to give certain brands or retailers preference. This way, the app remains a credible, community-driven platform for sharing authentic product recommendations.

"All the content and ranking on the platform is dictated by the popularity of products with our user base," Brockhoff said. "We know how important it is to our users. We do not claim to be perfect, but we do our best and make this a priority within our company."

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Takeaways

  1. MASSE is a social shopping app designed to help consumers cut through the clutter online and find the best products for themselves, guided by real recommendations from verified and trusted users.
  2. To ensure MASSE's integrity as a "word of mouth" shopping app, the company's founders Elizabeth Shaffer and Lizzy Brockhoff, have a zero-tolerance policy toward paid-for or sponsored content and dubious reviews.

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Joshua is an editor for CNET's Download.com. He covers the mobile tech and apps that power our lives and interviews celebrities about their favorite apps. Previously, he worked as an editor at Healthline and Gay.com and as a contributing writer for Mac Directory, MacAddict, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, and SF Chronicle.