ARI: My guest now is Tom Hadfield, who is the founder of Fetch, the new app that I’ve actually been
raving about in the last couple episodes. So, Tom, thank you for talking to me.
TOM: Hi, Ari.
ARI: Tell everyone what Fetch is, first of all. I mean, I’ve pretty much told everybody the last few
episodes, but why don’t you share it?
TOM: Fetch is a personal buying assistant for your phone or tablet, and we have a very simple goal,
which is to make buying easy on your mobile device. It’s super simple; you can take a photograph or
describe a product that you want to buy, and then we have a team of highly trained professional
shoppers who will identify the lowest price online, they’ll check for coupon codes, and then they’ll place
the order for you on your behalf using your shipping and billing information from your Fetch profile. The
consequence is that you can buy anything in seconds. Buying really is as simple as describing the product
that you want.
ARI: How did you come up with the idea? By the way, you guys launched within the last month.
TOM: We were onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt a couple of weeks ago, so it’s a very new product. We
have been building the product for just over a year, and we set out to try and solve a problem which we
identified in our lives, and which you’ll be familiar with, and that is that buying on your phone is a pain.
We realized it takes 4 or 5 minutes to make a purchase on your phone. You have to click at least 18
times to enter your billing address and your shipping address and your credit card number, your security
code, your expiry date, your name, your email, your phone number – let alone the time that it takes you
to then do the price comparison and check for coupon codes. What a pain.
So part of the realization was that we’ve taken this shopping cart technology that was invented in the
mid-90s and ported it across into the mobile, with all of the dropdown boxes and forms to fill out, and
you’re doing all of this on a tiny screen, so it really doesn’t work.
We started with a fresh sheet of paper and said “What if buying was just as easy as describing the
product that you want? Then what would we have to do?” So that’s really where Fetch emerged from.
ARI: What I find so interesting about this, besides the fact that it is very convenient and it works very
well, and we’re going to get into the functionality, but one of the things that I’m always recommending
is virtual assistance, and you have general virtual assistance for all sorts of things.
A few months ago – I’m not sure how long now; maybe 5, 6 months ago – Fancy Hands, which is the
virtual assistant service that I usually recommend, stopped doing payments. I guess they had some issue
with their processor and they couldn’t do it anymore. Of course, until it happens, you don’t realize how
inconvenient it is.
But what I find so interesting about what you’re offering, besides the convenience, is that there seems
to be this trend now of splintering into very specific kinds of outsourcing assistance.
TOM: That’s right. First of all, I love Fancy Hands. I use it a couple of times each week. But shopping for
products is a very specialized skill, and so the process that we train our buying assistants to go through
in terms of using multiple price checking services, checking for coupon codes, being able to identify
exactly the product that you want and fill in the gaps when there’s information missing – this is a pretty
specialized skill in order to do right.
So it doesn’t surprise me that some of the general virtual assistant services don’t want to get into this
game. There’s the issues of guaranteeing that you’re going to get the lowest price, handling errors if the
user or the buying team buy the wrong product. There’s a lot of detail here. So I think this notion of
human assistance in specialized areas is really the next wave of virtual system services.
ARI: Can you tell us, unless it’s too proprietary, but can you tell us a little bit about the training process
that people go through? Because I agree, buying is a specialized skill. And actually, before you even
answer, one of the things that people should know – which I thought is so cool, by the way, kudos to
you, is that you can put in your Amazon login for this stuff. So if you have a Prime account, they can use
I’ll tell you honestly, if I can’t buy something on Amazon with the 1-click button, that’s immediately
when I want to send it to someone else to do it. I’ve been kind of amazed with how much I’ve used
Fetch, how little they’ve actually ended up using Amazon. It’s been actually eye-opening to me. You get
into a mode where you use Amazon because it’s convenient, and you believe that it’s typically cheaper,
but your guys have been finding things way cheaper for me for stuff.
TOM: That’s right. Two key points there. I want to come back to the training of our buying team. But on
Amazon, a significant percentage, about a third of the orders we place are through Amazon. They are
very competitive in price, as you know. It is the quickest and the easiest way to buy something at the
moment using Amazon 1-click until Fetch came along. And people like Amazon. They trust the brand and
they appreciate the shipping service and the customer service.
So we do try to make it easy for our users to use their Amazon accounts, even when placing the order
through Fetch. But now you have the benefit of being able to buy any product from any retailer with
one click and always be sure you’re getting the absolute lowest price rather than just the general sense
that Amazon is going to be low enough. So we do feel like Fetch is an improvement on the Amazon user
Let’s come back to training, though, because part of what we offer is the trust that the buying team are
going to identify exactly the product you want, they’re going to find exactly the lowest price available
online, they’re going to check every single coupon code, and they’re going to fill out that checkout form
for you without making any errors.
So we have a very rigorous training process for new buying team members that is not dissimilar to the
kind of process that an Uber driver would go through, from recruitment to training to testing to quality
control to user ratings, etc.
We have a significant number of applications to be on the buying team. As you can imagine, it’s kind of
the dream job to work from home and buy things all day for other people while saving them money.
So we put them through a rigorous training process that includes a textbook portion, so we have
developed a knowledge base with a lot of reading, which is basically the first week. They then go
through an open book exam where they can answer questions based on the buying process that we’ve
specified. They then go through a test environment where we submit requests to them and they go and
find the lowest price. We already know what the answers are, so we monitor how they perform there.
We then pair them up with a buddy who’s an existing member of the buying team and give them their
first session in the live environment. But at that point, they’re being closely monitored by their buying
team buddy. Ultimately, they start working full 8-hour shifts from home.
But we have stringent quality control measures in place, so we’re doing auditing of the searches that
they’re doing. It’s a pretty rigorous process. About a quarter of the buying team go back for retraining
each month, and as we let go of the poorly performing members of the buying team who might be
missing best practices, we bring in a new batch each month. The quality of that team really is the core to
Fetch’s future success.
ARI: It’s really fascinating to me, honestly. I deal with a lot of outsourcing, obviously, so I’m looking at
this on a couple levels, but for people listening, I think it’d be very easy to say “Oh, they’re just buying
stuff. It’s really simple.”
But you’re showing that there’s actually a pretty rigorous process to get this right. Maybe it’s trivial for
the person who wants to get this particular pair of shoes, but for the person who has a budget and they
need certain things, this is hugely, hugely valuable. And it’s a free service, by the way. We didn’t even
TOM: That’s right. The business model for Fetch is affiliate commissions, so we get on average about 7%
of the transaction value from the retailer. The price that you pay as the user is the same whether you
order directly from the retailer or through Fetch. We are planning to introduce some premium
subscription features for our heaviest users, but there will always be that free option for users to get
used to using the service.
But I do want to come back to that point you made about the specialized skill, because I often get asked
the question “Why is human intelligence better than artificial intelligence when it comes to placing e-
commerce purchases? Why not use Amazon Flow? Why couldn’t Siri do this?”
I really do think it’s the ability for a human buying team member to use their judgment to identify
exactly the product you want, to check every single price out there, to manually check coupon codes if
need be, and then be able to fill out any form on any website. That’s something that no computer could
do today. Computers may get there one day, but right now, I think Fetch is the best we have.
ARI: Right, and I love it. All right, the last question that I like to ask, Tom, is what are the top 3 things that
make you more effective? From whatever you do, whatever you’ve done, your personal top 3
productivity effectiveness tips.
TOM: Gosh. Personally, I’m a huge subscriber to Inbox Zero.
TOM: I filter every email that comes in, either to be actioned by project or to an archive and follow the
2-Minute Rule, which is if something takes less than 2 minutes, then get it done now. I write down my
to-dos every day and order them by priority and cross them off my list through the day. I believe that
writing down your goals is the #1 driver of productivity and success. My wife laughs at me for keeping a
paper version on our fridge, but it just reminds me what’s important in this coming period. And Ari,
since we first spoke a few weeks ago, I’m now an avid listener of the Less Doing podcast. That’s probably
top of my list right now.
ARI: Thank you very much, Tom. Everybody has to check out Fetch. What’s the URL?
TOM: It’s buywithfetch.com or it’s Fetch in the App Store or Google Play.
ARI: Okay. Tom, thank you so much. Everybody check out Fetch, and you’ll start getting more of what
you need and want and saving more money. Thanks again.
TOM: Thanks so much, Ari.