The gamification of shopping. (Hey, it’s always been a game…)
It’s not exactly big game hunting. Nor a blood sport (mostly). But, for some shoppers, there’s always been an element of being “on the hunt” – for bargains, for the perfect little black dress, the funky pillow that will look really cool in the corner of the couch. Many years ago, I used to love to hit (the late, lamented) Filene’s Basement on the day of the Neiman-Bergdorf-Bonwit’s-Bendel’s whatever sale – this in the days before there was outlet shopping, or T J Maxx and the like.
So I get that shopping has always been something of a game.
And shopping, back in the day, was social, something you did with friends. (“You want to cruise The B [Filene’s Basement] on Saturday?”)
Even at my advanced age, I still go on a couple of social shopping excursions each year.
So I completely get the concept of social shopping.
Alas, these days, most of my shopping is for a specific purpose. If I’m not gift shopping, it’s practical stuff: I need new bras, or a black suit, or a white shirt, or something to wear to a wedding – and it’s often done online.
I no longer shop like I used to. Nor do I care to.
Still, I remember just how exhilarating shopping can be when you make the Big Score, or buy something that is so perfectly you that you’re still wearing (and enjoying) it 20 years on. I have a number of sweaters in this category.
But when you do shop for fun and hobby, you can end up buying a lot of crap you really don’t need.
Sometimes it’s a bargain that’s too good to turn down. In this category, my champeen purchase – some 30+ years ago – was a gorgeous camel-colored knit dress that fit perfectly, was from some reasonably upscale designer label, and was colossally marked down at Loehmann’s. Unfortunately, with the possible exception of olive-drab, there is no color that looks worse on me than camel. Every time I put the dress on, I realized that I looked like death warmed over. So I never actually ended up wearing it.
Sometimes it’s something you buy because you love the color, only to realize, once you get it home, that the reason you were drawn to it is because you already own multiple variations on the same theme. Thus, I would occasionally find myself in possession of three periwinkle blue cashmere sweaters.
Fantasy Shopper “gamifies” shopping.
Shoppers use virtual money to buy virtual items at real stores. They pull looks together and get other folks to take a look at them and tell them what you think.
Sometimes there are contests. In the one mentioned in The Economist article, players accessorized outfits pulled together from items available through the store Matches with a Stella McCartney handbag. Participants voted, and the winner got the Stella bag – worth nearly $1K. (As the Beatles – including Stella’s old man - used to say: Gear! Fab! Fab! Gear!)
Shoppers can also collect other rewards, including coupons to use for real goods. (They can also accumulate badges, but I’m not sure whether these translate into something tangible or are their own reward.)
For the stores participating, there are a number of benefits, including figuring out what flies with their shoppers, and what’s a dud. And, likely, attracting some real buyers who might not have shopped there otherwise. (One gamer commented that she thought that a certain store was geared toward her mother’s set, but realized through Fantasy Shopper that there were some things for her there, as well.)
Fantasy Shopper “works” in London, but is coming soon to the U.S.
Meanwhile, the company – the brainchild of a crew of Exeter University guys who have clearly figured out how to tap into the female psyche – has beaten out 1,500 other start-ups to win an Amazon newbie award. And, better yet, in January got a couple of million in VC money. Real, not virtual.
When I think of online games, I mostly think of hunched over guys in their parents’ basement living on Doritos and Dr. Pepper while devoting their lives to World at Warcraft. Or odd-balls livin’ la vida loca in FarmVille
But Fantasy Shopper seems fresh and fun. And useful. No more getting stuck with a closet full of camel-colored dresses. No more drawer full of periwinkle sweaters. You go, girls!