Clutch’s mobile shopping app is chock full of features, and Big Brother

By Michael Carney , written on December 6, 2012

From The News Desk

Sometimes combining multiple products or services into a single device can be game-changingly powerful, as in the case of the original iPhone or even the trusty clock-radio. Clutch is hoping this paradigm extends itself to mobile shopping, as the company released a new iOS app today that combines a mobile wallet (integrated with Apple’s Passbook), coupons, daily deals, shopping searches, shopping lists, price comparisons, a recommendation engine, gifting, wish lists, birthday reminders, and a partridge in a feature tree.

The theory behind Clutch’s smorgasbord of value shopping is that a large segment of the consumer population is already using individual apps to serve each of these above functions. Yet by doing so, they are losing incremental value by having them exist independently. Based on my own limited testing, this seems to hold true in certain situations, but in others, the experience can be maddeningly overwhelming and, given certain privacy concerns, quite creepy.

First, the positive.

In cases where a user is actively looking for deals on a particular item – for themselves or others – Clutch is a nice little virtual personal shopper keeping an eye out for you. If the a user adds an item to their shopping list or wish list, they can be alerted to available coupons and deals for that product. Taking this a step further, if the user is nearby a store that is offering this product at an attractive price, or nearby an item that corresponds to a coupon stored in the user’s mobile wallet, the app can deliver location-based alerts as well.

By integrating Clutch with Facebook, users can access their friends’ wish lists and also take advantage of the app’s gifting recommendation engine which intelligently suggests personalized gifts based on a user’s profile information. If users purchase eGift cards through the app, they can be personalized it with a video, photo, and/or message for each recipient, making a potentially transactional experience more intimate.

Clutch will support more than 300 brands at launch and will aggregate over 100,000 deals, offers, and rebates daily. The first 1,000 users to download and register in the app received $25 in pre-loaded gift cards for Adidas, FTD, SpaFinder, and Maui Jim.

Now, the not so nice.

By virtue of the sheer volume of features and use cases for Clutch, the app can be quite overwhelming. It’s likely the average user – which one might presume to be a moderately technical American housewife – would struggle to find and take advantage of half the potential value baked into the product.

Worse, as the company points out in its own press release on the launch, this is really all about data. “Merchants benefit from a direct-to-consumer marketing channel informed by rich data across retailers, gift lists created by the app user and their friends, past responses to offers, and geo-location information...because of Clutch’s registration process, gift card buyers and recipients are no longer anonymous.” As Sarah Lacy is fond of saying in situations like this, “gross!”

By downloading the app, registering a profile, and connecting it to Facebook, users are willingly submitting themselves to a fairly heavy dose of targeting and tracking by the evil eye in the retail sky. There are likely consumers out there who would gladly trade this behavioral data for a few dollars in savings and a few minutes of convenience.

In the end, it’s really about awareness. If a user knows the implicit contract that they’re entering when they download and use Clutch, then the service is spilling with value. On the other hand, anyone doing so naively, likely deserves any surprises that they get.