Walmart, Amazon and eBay Woo Holiday Shoppers With Apps


Walmart has just released Shopycat, a standalone Facebook app to make shopping, holiday and everyday, smarter and stress-free (hopefully). Shopycat mines social data to recommend items from, Walmart stores and other partner sites including RedEnvelope, Barnes & Noble, NBC Universal and ThinkGeek.

“We’ve been working on how to add a social layer on top of e-commerce. One of the key areas where we thought we could make a difference is in gift-giving … we thought if we could take a person’s interests and ‘likes,’ that are expressed on Facebook, and tie those with a vast product catalog, then we could make gift-giving much more enjoyable,” commented Anand Rajaraman, head of WalmartLabs, to Venture Beat.

Shopycat currently passes users to other websites for purchase, but by this time next year, shopping will be done directly on Facebook, as Ravi Raj, VP of product for WalmartLabs told VB.[more]

The WalmartLabs unit, set-up after Walmart’s Kosmix acquisition, is focused on developing platforms, products and businesses around social and mobile commerce, and Shopycat leverages the company’s Social Genome platform to capture connections between people, places, topics, products and events for personalized recommendations.

“Human beings are inherently social and gift giving is one of the most social activities we engage in. The “perfect gift” is a complex and subjective notion and depends as much on the giver as it does on the recipient,” wrote Rajaraman, co-founder of Kosmix, in a blog post on Wednesday.

“Shopycat shows a diverse array of gift recommendations for each friend; not all of these will be the perfect gift, but our hope is that for each friend, there is one recommendation that makes you go “wow.”’

It’s a burgeoning and highly competitive field.  Amazon just launched an app for iPad and Kindle Fire for creating holiday gift wish lists, as Mashable noted.

eBay’s entry is the recent acquisition of Hunch, an online platform for customized purchase recommendations, in a deal that “will help surface more quality recommendations from eBay’s “long tail” of unstructured listings.” eBay already offers a host of mobile apps, including a fashion-lover’s dream: a virtual fitting room app that uses augmented reality.

eBay is taking its mobile apps further in another holiday tie-in this season. The e-tailer has partnered with Toys for Tots to launch (with actress Debra Messing) The Give-A-Toy Store, an interactive storefront concept now live in New York (at 35th and Broadway) and San Francisco (at 117 Post St.), where you can window shop for good. A similar virtual storefront is also installed in London.

In an innovative test to promote mobile giving, shoppers at the virtual pop-up store windows must first download the RedLaser-powered eBay mobile app, then scan the tag on the toy of their choice with their mobile phone and donate it to a child in need. Toys ‘come to life’ as you scan the barcodes after every donation.

WalmartLabs’s mobile shopping list includes acquisition of social ad network OneRiot, and mobile point-of-sale startup Grabble, as part of a next generation, in-store social network dubbed “Storechat,” as well as NFC purchase-by-phone capabilities.

“We’re going through an inflection point in e-commerce because of two major trends: social and mobile,” said Rajaraman to VB. “The whole of commerce is going to change, so the mission of WalmartLabs is to help reinvent the future and make sure that Wal-Mart is at the forefront.” 

With mobile gift-giving taking off this holiday season, looks like it’s Santa who better watch out!


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