Two Tools Visually Remind Consumers to Save at Online Checkout

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A new app designed to encourage online shoppers to abandon whimsical Amazon purchases in order to transfer money into their pre-established savings goals, like an upcoming trip to San Diego, launched this week.

ImpulseSave, a Boston-based personal finance company, announced Thursday an e-commerce plug-in for the Google Chrome web browser that lets users transfer money into their savings goals while they're shopping on more than 50 e-commerce sites.

The service works like this: After an ImpulseSave user installs the browser plugin, he will receive reminders of his longer-term financial goals when he is viewing his shopping carts on sites like Zappos and Amazon. Say he's about to buy an espresso machine. A picture of his child with an upcoming birthday might rise from the bottom of the checkout screen to remind him he's saving for a fancy red wagon, for example. With a click, he can choose to transfer the amount of what the espresso machine would have cost — or a percent of it — into his savings goal instead.

"We are becoming an angel on [users'] shoulders," Phil Fremont-Smith, co-founder and chief executive, tells BTN. "We are tempting them at the point of sale to take action on those goals."

ImpulseSave's latest news comes on the heels of Des Moines-based SmartyPig's announcement Wednesday of a Chrome plugin that's designed to help people set savings goals for specific items while searching the web.

Though at first blush, ImpulseSave's and SmartyPig's latest offerings seem identical, there is a subtle nuance. Unlike SmartyPig, ImpulseSave's app is not meant to allow for creation of new goals while consumers are shopping online, but rather remind consumers of their pre-established financial objectives.

The two new offerings point to an interesting mini-trend of emerging technology to stall instant-gratification purchases.

"I'm intrigued by any kind of tool that reminds consumers of what they're trying to accomplish," says Mark Schwanhausser, director of multichannel financial services at Javelin Strategy & Research. "Too often the budget is about what I can't afford, but if you can turn it on its ear and say here are my top goals, here's why I'm saving and remind me at the time of decision. …it's a fundamental rewriting of PFM."

ImpulseSave accounts are backed by Leader Bank NA, a nationally chartered community bank. The startup also tempts users to make transfers to their savings accounts through mobile apps and Instagram. A typical user saves $3000 a year.

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