Social Networking, Meet 3-D Shopping

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Here’s how it works: After going to the site and downloading the free mall software that’s required, you enter a virtual 3-D shopping mall that looks very realistic. Once in the mall, you can create avatars or personas to represent yourself, interact with other shoppers and view storefronts.

Here’s what really got my attention: Some big retailers are partnering with the site. A quick look at the website’s advertiser directory shows hundreds of retailers — from familiar ones like Apple, Best Buy and Foot Locker to less well-known online retailers such as PrankPlace, Preschoolians and ShopIrish — advertising their wares on the site.

The website offers retailers a number of ways to woo customers to shop, including the following:
∗ offer coupons;
∗ salesbots (or pop-up ads) and virtual salespeople in front of their stores promoting merchandise and specials; and
∗ storefront signage, mall carts, billboards and information kiosks promoting the same.

Special events like seminars, concerts, guest appearances and contests are held on the main stage in the mall atrium.

VirtualEShopping.com also offers social networking features. An “I Want It/I Got It” section allows shoppers to share images and links of their favorite items with friends. Other features include a special dates section that makes it easier for friends to remember gift-giving occasions; a shopping tips chat function; and a section to share favorite stores. The site also grabs a snapshot of a shopper’s mall persona to represent each user in the social networking section. Registered users can invite friends to meet them in the mall at a prearranged day and time.

VirtualEShopping.com appeals to many demographics: Gen Xers who like to socialize in malls; moms with young children who can’t shop during store hours but who like to shop with friends; and even tech-types who prefer a more robust interface.

Hey, maybe I’m partial to these virtual worlds since we’ve had some very successful virtual trade shows here at eM+C. (In fact, to register for the on-demand version of our most recent, All About eMail, click here. It’ll be up and running until Feb. 16.) But really, VirtualEShopping.com is cool. Check it out.

Finally, Online Shopping With Friends

Don’t you just love shopping with friends? I do. I love getting opinions from them about what items of clothing look good on me, what would be considered a good value, what would
make a great gift and so on. When shopping with friends, I bet I also spend
more.

Don’t you just love shopping with friends? I do. I love getting opinions from them about what items of clothing look good on me, what would be considered a good value, what would
make a great gift and so on. When shopping with friends, I bet I also spend
more.

That’s why I was
interested in a new, free widget called Shoplication
that I received a press release about recently.
Placed in the checkout areas of
online retailers’ websites, the widget — which says, “Shop With Friends”
— enables shoppers who click on it to shop and share products with their
friends in real time. And online retailers can drive more sales.
The widget is the brainchild of Josh Bochner, CEO of Boston-based FriendShopper, a social platform that allows web shoppers to chat with their friends while shopping. The chat function docks to the right side of browsers to create an interactive shopping environment, and the dialogue feature allows users to converse and share with multiple friends simultaneously.

To use the tool, shoppers add the FriendShopper bookmark into their browsers’ toolbars, surf any
online storefronts and click the bookmark button whenever they find items
they’d like to save or share with friends.

The Shoplication widget takes this experience to the e-tailer.

Here’s how the widget
works: After FriendShopper members click on the Shoplication widget, they see a
pop-up featuring that product’s data that can be used to save the item, share
it with friends or both. If they’re currently shopping with a FriendShopper
member, that product data is added to the conversation. Users can also share
the online merchant’s store with FriendShopper friends by clicking the
“Add New Store.”

If consumers who aren’t members click on the widget, they see a co-branded pop-up window that
says the online retailer’s store has partnered with FriendShopper to bring them
a new shopping experience. Consumers can then sign up. Then they’re offered the
option to have the item be discussed in their “My Items” pages so
they can share it with their friends.

There are also some cool search options available for retailers. When they add the
widget to their sites, for example, they’re listed on the FriendShopper portal.

I thought this was a great way to allow friends to shop together and help online retailers expand
their reaches.
What do you think?