Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier for the average consumer to be selective about where they spend their money. More than just looking for the best deal, consumers are increasingly looking for businesses whose values align with their own: those concerned about the sustainability of our forests can research which paper manufacturers source their materials ethically and in a way which does the least harm to the environment, Muslims can search for products carrying a halal certification, and animal lovers can ensure they buy makeup that hasn’t been tested on animals.
Set to launch later this year, Sydney startup Zusa has taken this idea and is creating a ‘diversity business search’. The Zusa app will allow users to search through various filters within a category of businesses to find the one that best suits their needs or aligns with their values. A user can first search by either staff criteria or, if they are searching for a pub, club, or other hospitality-type business, by crowd criteria to look at who typically frequents the business. Businesses can then be filtered by age, gender, ethnicity, race, or religion, sporting or community group alliance, and whether the business facilitates disabled access.
At first glance, it may sound like Zusa makes it easier for us to stick with what we know and what’s familiar to us rather than take a leap into something new. However, co-founders James Hazelton and Ingrid Bruggestrass believe that they’re simply updating a process as old as time.
“For as long as there have been people and business options, people have had personal preferences on the reasons they choose a business. Their reasoning for choosing one business over another may be beyond the straight forward consideration of service, or quality offering. People find businesses for a number of reasons, based on decisions that are personal to them that may not be openly shared.
“For example a user may have family or cultural conventions, or influence from social interaction. Zusa cuts the research time usually required to meet the user’s preferences when searching for businesses and services, allowing users to connect with businesses immediately without any conflict, delay or difficulty.”
Zusa could become especially useful for minority groups, such as new migrants (or even travellers) who want to find a hairdresser where the staff speak their language or those with a disability who want to ensure the restaurant they go out to is actually accessible to someone in a wheelchair.
It is also another marketing platform of sorts for businesses. Initially free for all businesses, who can sign up themselves, Hazelton and Bruggestrass intend to create a multi-tiered version where businesses can pay to list on the platform and control the details on their profile. It will also allow increased visibility in search results and the ability to communicate with targeted users. A user will be able to contribute to a free profile by verifying details listed, checking ‘true’ or ‘false’.
“For the most part, people are honest and fair, and users are the key force in both the contribution and verification of accuracy on the business diversity information with some safeguards in place as fallbacks.”
However, verifying whether a listed detail is true or false is all that a user will be able to contribute to a profile; Hazelton and Bruggestrass are adamant that Zusa will not be a review platform.
“Online reviews are dead, or at least bleeding heavily. The credibility of reviews on all digital mediums are now tarnished by a wide acknowledgement within the web-sphere that marketing companies exist to provide made-up positive reviews. Beyond this, we choose not to include reviews or allow user feedback of any kind in text form to prevent the ability to write anything derogatory.”
While there are admittedly problems with review platforms, many have now added to their offering by becoming service booking platforms – think of your Yelps and Zomatos. The idea of Zusa is an interesting one, but with businesses already paying to be on other platforms that offer both them and the consumer more, they may not want to shell out for yet another profil that does less. Of course, there are businesses that cater specifically for certain groups or are proud of their diversity and want to invite a diverse crowd who would be happy to pay.
While interested businesses will be able to list themselves on the platform once the app launches, the Zusa team is currently in the process of canvassing businesses around Sydney and adding them onto the app.