As I shop for the holidays I am repeatedly faced with the same challenge, a discussion that ensues something like this:
- – I’d love to get the TiVo Series 2 HD DVR
- – That’s the thing that records TV right?
- – Um… yes, but you have to make sure it is a Series 2
- – Series 2, got it. Is there some other way to know I’ve got the right one? What’s the Series 1 do
- – There is no Series 1, there is Series 3 but I don’t want that because it doesn’t have all the capabilities of the Series 2. Just look for Series 2.
- – Ok, and you want an HDTV?
- – No, not an HDTV, well yes, I do want an HDTV but the TiVo comes in HD and non-HD… um… ‘flavors’. I want the HD version.
- – Got it. Will they know what I’m talking about at the store if I just ask for it?
- – Heh. (great, I’m going to put my digital life in the hands of a Best Buy in-store employee) Um… no, let me just find it online and send you the link
- – The link to where I can buy it?
- – Yes, I’ll just find the best deal and send it to you
- – So you want me to buy it online? I don’t trust their shipping during the holidays. Maybe I should just have it mailed to you… kind of ruins the holiday spirit of a surprise gift and all but…
And repeat; with my spouse, sibling, close friends and those peer enthusiasts who just love my blog so much they want to get me something for Christmas.
I know you’ve been there. Online Shopping has made life exceptionally better for many but remains exceptionally confusing and challenging for most. Yet, fundamentally, I believe most shoppers shy away from the online experience because shopping is a social activity. An opportunity to be out with a friend or loved one to chat, share opinions and desires, and spend some hard earned dough. The internet just can’t deliver. Or can it?
Years ago, when I was with Yahoo! Shopping, we launched a messenger Shopping bot that allowed shoppers to chat with a virtual Y! Shopping avatar. The idea was smart: Giving shoppers an opportunity to have a virtual friend while hopefully using Yahoo! IM to include real friends in the experience. I won’t say it didn’t go well because that isn’t true but I could argue that it struggled as it was limited by the same limitations that plague social networks today: the only friends with whom you could interact are those that are on that network. What good is that? My wife doesn’t use **insert favorite social network or messenger service here**
Enter Bunnybot which connects shoppers with millions of products from Amazon and other merchants and lets them instantly share items with their online buddies in an interactive chat window. Successfully addressing Yahoo’s shortcoming, they have created a comprehensive shopping vertical search engine with an open network that allows users to chat through all of the major IM platforms. Friends not using Bunnybot? It doesn’t matter as you are chatting and sharing products through MSN Messenger. Google Talk, or the platform they prefer. Though, talk about a viral marketing platform for Bunnybot; when you share the product through your friends’ messenger window, the product link brings them to Bunnybot’s product page.
Advanced Shopping Search
Even without the instant messaging integration, Bunnybot has developed a unique search experience which, in hindsight, is an obvious enhancement. Run a query say, “Nike” and the results are first categorized making the logical conclusion that universal or federated results are not necessarily the best user experience. You are first presented with a set of options: Shoes, Books, Electronics, Apparel, etc. then a visual results page better mimicking traditional, social shopping. SEE something that looks cool, share it with your friends with a “hey, look at that” then the friendly discourse ensues, “oh that’s pretty” “Wow, that’s a good price, I saw it on sale last week and it still cost more” “should I get it?” “absolutely!”
What I really find intriguing is that like Meebo, you could simply use the messenger window as an integrated chat platform; more than Meebo, Bunnybot gives you the single chat interface with a shopping experience.
Miss the eerie AI driven messenger bot with whom you can chat if you don’t have many friends? Bunnybot is there for you. In fact, the best way to try the platform is to give the bunny a test drive. The AI has a ways to go but built in to the experience are witty responses and relevant banter. Tell the bunny what you want and it will usually pull up a set of results with a remark to keep you engaged.
- – I’d love to get the TiVo Series 2 HD DVR (said to everyone in my family)
- – That’s the thing that records TV right? (says one)
- – Yep. THIS (sent to all)
- – And we can buy it at any of these merchants? (says another)
- – Yep, go ahead and fight over who gets to buy me what I want most 😉 See you all Christmas day!