Operator is a new iPhone app that acts as a personal shopping assistant. It arrives just in time for the hectic holiday season too. If you’re having trouble deciding what to buy or where to buy it from, Operator can help you out.
You just type in a few details about what you’re looking for — be it clothes, electronics, concert tickets… just about anything — and Operator connects you to a real, human “shopping expert” who does the work of finding the perfect products for you online.
From there, it’s up to you to browse your options and make a purchase, which you can do directly from within Operator. There’s something positively futuristic about using this free app and when you’re gift shopping, it’ll very quickly become your best friend. Plenty of apps already exist for budget shopping, but far less help with the ideas.
Getting Operator to Do Your Shopping
First things first, tap Get Me Started when you download the app to enter your phone number.
Note: The phone number must be a valid, U.S.-based number.
Very quickly after that, you’ll have to enter a confirmation code and viola, your account is all set up.
Notice that Operator looks very similar to a standard messaging app. That’s because most of what you’ll be doing within the app is talking to an expert that will help you find what you’re looking for.
Before you get started, it’s a good idea to add your payment information. Since you can buy products directly within the app, having a card on file will make the check-out process much quicker. Tap the Menu icon on the top left and then choose Payment to add in your credit or debit card information.
Tip: Tap Shipping here too to quickly fill out a shipping address.
Finally, on the main Messages screen, tap Send a Request to get started. By default, Operator will ask you a few questions, starting with the category of product you’re looking for: clothing, home decor, flowers, electronics, tickets or something else.
In my experience, I tapped Something Else because I was looking for a birthday gift for my father. After that, the app — still automated — wanted to know what I was looking for. After I specified, I was connected with a real person. The expert asked what my budget was and what might be some of my father’s interests. He’s a big wine connoisseur, so I didn’t lie about that.
It took about 30 minutes to get a response after that, so it’s not the quickest process in the world, but it’s not like I had to sit there and wait either. The expert sent me two products: a wine carafe from Bed Bath and Beyond and a beer chiller on Amazon. Those are pretty impressive gift ideas from someone who knows almost nothing about my father. All that’s necessary is a simple conversation through Operator.
The products sent are accompanied by an I’ll Take It button. Tap that, and you’re quickly taken to a check-out page. It’s efficient and downright amazing if you’re confident in the product. Unfortunately, a major downside to Operator right now is that it doesn’t provide a link for more details — just the product name, image and price.
Still, Operator is a powerful new shopping experience that will probably only get even more powerful with time and updates. It’s a worthy and free shopping companion to try out the next time you need gift-give and need ideas or to simply obey a budget.