Are You Ready for E-commerce 2.0?

E-commerce is poised for a fundamental change—a shift from making online purchases to going shopping online – a social experience involving groups of people interacting with one another in a three-dimensional Web space.

The evolution is foreshadowed with places such as Second Life, Entropia Universe, and There. Although real-life products are occasionally offered for sale in these worlds, the May 2006 opening of an American Apparel outlet in Second Life was a milestone. At the store, customers can browse through the merchandise and then, by clicking on an image of a particular item, purchase virtual clothing for their avatars or real-world clothing for themselves. Other companies are following suit: Adidas is slated to open a store in Second Life this fall.

The shopping experience in these online worlds is still pretty rudimentary. In order to buy the real-world article, you click on an image of the product and are simply transported to the company’s regular Web site, where you complete the purchase. In fact, American Apparel currently sees the store more as a brand-building than as a revenue-generating venture.

As the experience becomes more realistic, there will be a return to the “social and recreational aspect of shopping”. One can envision a group of teenage girls arranging to meet at a virtual store to try on clothes, comment on each other’s choices, and ultimately choose something, real or virtual, to buy.

So where is the Buzz? I can see a day when iTunes could create a virtual store in which people would hang out and listen to others’ playlists, and swap opinions about the music. Kind of like a virtual Starbucks environment. Web 2.0 is all about Multi Sensory Experiential content – if you want to create Buzz!

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