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Many of the experiences we have were conceived and designed by someone else prior to us having them. When we go to the supermarket, for instance, it seems our entire experience – however idiosyncratic - has been played out and anticipated. The same is true when we go out to dinner, to a movie, or the airport. Disneyland is probably the extreme case.
We live in a world in which macro contexts are largely set for us. Our own micro twists are additive to our personal experience. Shopping, in particular, has become a finely-tuned experience, be it at Wal-Mart, Nordstrom, or Amazon. Someone has organized the experience down to the very movements of our eyeballs.
Historically, designing a shopping experience has been a rather complicated thing to do. In the old, old days, a physical store was a must. In the more recent-but-quickly-becoming-ancient-in-Internet-time days, you had to create a Web site, set up an e-commerce platform, and so on. Yet it’s still a pretty costly proposition, and even more so if you wanted to create something really compelling.
ShopIt is the ultimate democratization of online shopping: Stores of one. ShopIt enables anyone to create a fully-featured online store. Your store can then be plugged into your blog or social network profile. Today on ShopIt, you can sell anything you’d sell on eBay, sans the fees. Tomorrow, ShopIt will let you sell items you don’t own. It plans to roll out a digital media sales platform, which allows users to sell both their own licensed content as well as over 3 million music tracks and movies. By the end of 2007, it will have launched an affiliate network with big online sites like Amazon. Essentially, you’ll be able to sell just about anything under the sun. Your very own Harrods.
The point is that you create a shopping experience for your community through your online presence/personality and the items you choose to promote through your store. So if you’re a person who really knows hip-hop music, you can plug your store into your MySpace profile and on your TypePad blogyou. so that people who follow your music tastes can buy directly from
Matt Hill, the founder and CEO of ShopIt, sees a future where each of us is able to create our own shopping experience, and promote the products we’re excited about. ShopIt is not the first to explore this concept – but would be the first to succeed at it. Yahoo’s “Shoposphere” allows bloggers to create their own personalized shopping lists, in an attempt to influence or encourage sales. And, back in 1999, now-defunct VStore, tried to capture the power of personal selling by letting people sell stuff and get a cut of everything they sold.
VStore failed mainly because the Internet was hardly mainstream at the time. The landscape today, however, is far more conducive for personal selling through Shopit. Not to mention, ShopIt’s approach is to have a portable store through a widget, thus allowing a personal store to have a greater audience. Even though the site just launched in August of 2007, Matt says daily signups to the ShopIt service are already “measured in the thousands.”
In a world where recommendation is becoming the pivotal consumption catalyst, the individualization of merchandising is a fun-to-consider extreme. And it’s the next turn of the ShopIt crank that could be even more interesting. Matt is creating an interconnected network of individual merchants which at some point could mean each of us will be able to build our own, personalized virtual shopping malls, where every store is operated by the exact person in whose judgment we most trust for that category.
On the ShopIt network, a gal could buy her bling from Martini Jewels, cosmetics from Smash Cosmetics, underwear from JuJuPanties and outfit from Down Clothing. Pretty much assuring that wherever she went she wasn’t going to run into someone else in the same getup!
In a broader sense, as we move from pre-packaged, mass-market experiences with subtle individual twists (like buying a venti, non-fat, no-foam late at Starbucks) to individually-designed, micro-market experiences with subtle commonalities (like buying a piece of jewelry from a completely unknown artisan over a common shopping network) we should see a return to a more personal and mutually rewarding connection between shopkeepers and their customers.
With small, quirky, Main Street shops rapidly becoming an unsustainable economic model in the face of giants like Wal-Mart, it may be the case that variety and individuality re-enter the marketplace through virtual services like ShopIt.
Hard to tell. But it’s clearly the case that the experience of shopping is changing at blistering pace.
Ezra Roizen is a strategic advisor to new ventures in the areas of private financing, mergers & acquisitions, and strategic planning. To contact him about The Roizen Report, ping him on his Vator.tv profile.
Disclaimer: The Roizen Report is a highly subjective and informal discussion of a current technology, company, or trend. The views discussed are solely those of the author and are not those of any organization with which he may be, has been, or will be affiliated. The Roizen Report should in no way be used in the forming of an investment or otherwise consequential decision.
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