Every now and then, I just like to mess around on the internet. Some people play games. Some people go to forums. Some people…well, they do other things. Because the internet is so integral to my profession, I find that most of those things feel too much like work. One thing that I’ve found to go, however, is Polyvore. If you’re not familiar with this site, I like to compare it to Fashion Plates. Remember them? You could create outfits by choosing different plates and then creating crayon rubbings. Polyvore is similar in that you can choose different outfit components from a wide variety of online retailers and other content providers. You then assemble these components into a style sheet. You can even create entire collections of outfits. Basically, you get to go pretend shopping in some of the highest end stores with no risk and no dirty looks.
Well, that’s all well and good. But as you can probably imagine, it’s only fun to window shop and make fashion plates for so long. As an adult, at some point, you want to actually acquire outfits rather than just dreaming them up. This sparked some thoughts.
- If you design an outfit in Polyvore based solely on aesthetics, the odds are high that one or more of the pieces are prohibitively expensive.
- If you design an outfit in Polyvore based solely on aesthetics, the odds are high that you’ll use an item that doesn’t come in your size.
Then I started thinking…
- What if Polyvore, based on basic information, only looked for items that could potentially fit you OR could search for alternatives with similar style and competitive pricing based on what you put together?
- Polyvore is fun. Why don’t malls and other cooperative retail experiences leverage this type of software to help shoppers prepare and enjoy their experience more.
Because here’s the thing. There are people that love to browse from store to store. There are people with plenty of leisure time and a fair amount of disposable income. There are just as many, if not more, people that hate the jostling about of people in boutiques. They hate semi-knowledgeable, overworked, under-friendly shop personnel. They hate the cramped dressing rooms and the loud music and the nauseating stench of over-sampled cologne. They hate looking for THIS item here and THAT item there and all the walking required to do cost and fit comparison. So, why not change this experience for the reluctant mall shopper. Here’s how I think it could work.
First, envision your favorite mall. All the vendors have agreed to participate in a digital shopping experience that integrates completely into their bricks and mortar establishment. Two major things are needed. The first thing is an online platform similar to Polyvore but differing in that rather than trolling the internet for outfit components, store inventory is loaded directly into the software using the second major tool – precise and purposeful workflows. In the warehouse, each item is not only tagged and packaged, but also photographed and meta-tagged. An information rich digital record is added to that vendor’s catalog. When the item reaches the store, it is scanned in so that now there is a public record that that item is available for purchase. Now, using the online interface, shoppers can use in-stock items to create outfits, reserve the items for in-person purchase or to try on, or purchase outright, completely circumventing the mall.
There would need to be much more involved in deciding the exact workflows and how this or that might happen. But imagine creating an outfit online using your local mall’s interface, with the assurance that it’s available in your size and it’s available at all. Imagine being able to walk into the mall, already knowing that your items will be ready to try on when you get there. Imagine not having to deal with “shopper’s fatigue” but having the satisfaction that you got the look that you were hoping for. If such an interface existed for my local malls, I know I’d use it. Would you?