October 21, 2009

competitive shopping

A friend was telling me about Gilt.com today, and its version of “entertainment shopping.” Every day Gilt offers up a limited set of curated fashion inventory at deeply discounted prices. They kick off the sale at 12 noon eastern / 9 a.m. pacific with a rush of traffic…and here’s the kicker: if you put an item in your cart you only have 10 minutes to complete the transaction, otherwise it gets removed and becomes available for someone else.

It’s like Filene’s Basement for the web.

I’d love this to become even more competitive. How about this scenario: You find an item you like, but it’s already been placed into someone else’s cart. You then have the opportunity to challenge them for the right to purchase it. In Gilt’s case, that challenge could be in the form of a fast-paced fashion quiz, where you have to correctly identify the designers of a certain set of pieces (perhaps from that day’s set of available inventory). You wouldn’t want to scare off newbies, so you’d need to have the right incentives to play, including discounts on future purchases if you lose, a limited number of “deny this challenge” (get out of jail free) chits, etc.

Ebay of course pioneered ecommerce as entertainment; but sites like Swoopo and Gilt are the next rev of “entertainment shopping,” and I’d love to see more competitive game mechanics integrated (beyond the auction, that is) into niche e-commerce sites.

Thought experiment: how could sellers use the Zynga gaming platform to merchandise their inventory?