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DressYou.com – Giving Social Networking a Fashion Makeover November 26, 2007

Posted by thedotcomillusionist in Startup.
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As we are catapulted into the next generation, there are a few observations that I’ve noted (obviously to the benefit of my argument and business idea) –

  • The Internet gives people the ability to access vast amounts of information faster than two shakes of a kitten’s whiskers.

  • Networking platforms allows us to expand our networking capability beyond any other methods previously capable.

  • Humans are visual creatures. As technology advances, services providing more rich media features that does not sacrifice load time and intuition will win out over those with less media rich features.

  • Despite many of today’s conveniences, people find themselves with less and less time.

Now, I am a big fan of today’s social networking goliath’s, and this idea has the potential to become an opensocial or facebook application, with its already giant membership which could possibly lead to instant success. But for some reason, whether it be my limited knowledge of extending Facebook applications or my selfishness of maximizing revenue by defining my own website architecture, this warrants its own social network.

So lets pick an industry. A non-tech industry will allow us to piggy back on an interest group that may not have necessarily found the Internet to be the most intuitive way to address their interests. I wanted the focus to be on an exciting industry, where innovation and creativity thrives in very many directions and niches, but at the same time, there is a maturity, and there are leading industry players with deep pockets. Advertising is key because product lines are constantly being reinvented to conform to the seasonal trends, therefore, there is a huge budget.

Along comes DressYou.com, a social network with a focus around fashion. Users will be able to connect with friends on a level of engagement previously not available, with the use to avatar technology. In addition, DressYou.com will also serve as a virtual dressing room platform for users to try on clothes online before purchasing.

Every business idea should be focused around a problem and a solution.

  • People will always buy clothes. Packing on some weight, worn out clothes, or just trying to stay on top of your game. But how often do you have the time to go shopping? Even if you do, who wants to go shopping with high school kids or old ladies? (Before you think about asking where I shop, just stop yourself right there). Online shopping is the only other alternative (other than catalog/phone orders, which are so last decade), but how many people do you know that won’t shop online because they are afraid that the clothes won’t fit? DressYou will standardize the sizes so that the clothes will be true to size according to the measurements that you provide.

  • Boutique brands have difficulty marketing their products. Issues with finances or marketing prowess, DressYou.com aims to level the playing field by putting brands side by side.

  • A more personal means to network. Photos are great, and already create a pretty deep level of engagement for users. DressYou intends to bring this to another level, from past to present, from reactive to proactive. Can you see the difference between –

    • You look so professional in that picture!” vs “Looking very professional today, got a meeting?”

    • T-shirt at this time of year? You must have been freezing!” vs “Looks like a cold day today, Hope you brought a coat with you.”

    • That shirt looks so tacky!” vs “That shirt looks so tacky, go home during your lunch and change!”

    DressYou.com users can update their avatar on a daily basis to display what they’re wearing. Hypothetically, a fashionably handicapped boyfriend in New York can be dressed by his girlfriend living in San Francisco. Or a boyfriend can try clothes on his girlfriend’s avatar before purchasing and sending in time for Christmas “Ah, clothes with stripes will help to hide that muffin top.”

Marketing – Most brands have a website by now. But many are unsure about online advertising outside of its own website (or at least the websites that I frequent). I’m certain that the majority of the advertising budget for most of these corporations still go to traditional media channels – print, radio, and television. Even if I do come across a Gap or Abercrombie banner advertisement, I don’t remember, because my mind has been predisposed to overlook useless content. Its not a level of engagement thats convertible, remember? Television commercials are highly visual (visual=engaging) and entertaining if done correctly, but is there an equal on the internet? Sure, put in a picture of a scantily dressed model, and there are enough people (including myself) that may click through to see more pictures, but how many of those impulse clicks will convert?

So, then what will you do to monetize? Focus selling (literally) the service, by the article clothing uploaded in the database, and charge more (eBay style) by bolding some products. Make a featured section, or start out a new user’s avatar in all LRG clothes. Banner advertisements? If people want to spend tons of money to put themselves on every pageview, why not, although the focus should be on the service, not the ads, because putting products in the database for all users is an means to expose your brand through a new channel.

Competitors? There are a ton of competitors, although non are direct. Major online retailers, like Amazon have an ecommerce-type focus. But no avatars. There are services that do some type of variation – Zwinky, Cafe.com, and many more (which leads me to believe that this is a project that will be difficult to accomplish). Very interesting concepts, although it may not achieve the same thing. Avatar focused, and its very cartoonish. I’m not suggesting to use a picture from a photo (adult acne, scars, wicked shirt tan may be counterintuitive to the mission at hand), but take a real photo, give it a Charles Schwab or A Scanner Darkly-type effect, and then let the user control the body by giving it Second Life-type options.

                

 

Will corporate retailers buy the business concept? There are already a ton of retail aggregation ecommerce websites. But do the business plans represent a win-win situation? If your focus is taking a cut of the profits from the user or the clothing label, perhaps? I’m still a little uneasy. But what if the conversion process means redirecting the user to the clothing label website to make the purchase over there, and DressYou.com does not take a cut from the transaction? Sounds like a better business proposition. Even if there was a small conversion fee, it still sounds like a better proposition than a regular cookie cutter clothing ecommerce site.

Mobile – The big differentiator between this and other social networks is the concept of proactive vs reactive, so it would make sense to incorporate a mobile angle. Waiting for the coffee to brew? Commuting to work? Waiting for class to start? Access the DressYou mobile application and tell us what you’re wearing, by either inputting a unique ID number or browsing through a list.

Programming – A dash of php, jscript for user interface, a cup of MySql for backend, a tablespoon of Flash for the Avatar technology, pinch of Brew/Java for the mobile application, and a teaspoon of illustrator/whatever for the cartoonizer rendering effect are the ingredients to make this website? This is why I haven’t already formed a team for this site and where the technical readers come in. C’mon!

Bottom line. User gets to dress themselves or their friends up with brand label clothes, giving a level of engagement never before seen, and DressYou doesn’t hard sell because they care about their members equals a great user experience. Sound disruptive? You’re damn right it does.

Have I tantalized your entrepreneurial brown eye yet? I haven’t registered the DressYou.com domain, so don’t bother trying to go there, and if it gets registered, I’ll know one of my readers is an ass. Feel free to drop comments in the meantime, I plan to move this entire blog over to a hosted, drupal created site in the next few weeks.

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Life:Water, Internet:??? November 23, 2007

Posted by thedotcomillusionist in Uncategorized.
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When I was still in equity research, one of the hottest topics and continues to be a prevailing theme are the varying monetization solutions for many of the widely popular services that comes as second nature for our generation – Instant Messaging, Social Networking, Search, Media, just to name a few. And for these, there are a slew of different types of advertisements – banner, contextual, rich media, in-text, pop-up, rss, in-video, mobile, product placement, and so on. The evolution of the Internet (huge un-researched assumption) went from informative, and as technology advanced, the permutation of more media rich content came into play, to today’s ravaging of the village that is the Internet. Everyone is getting in the game, not just free services, even those with winning products and services that are proven breadwinners. Its totally cool, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind watching an advertisement on the new Nissan Versa in order to catch my latest episode of heroes on nbc.com so that I don’t have to pay extra to have a Tivo device at home. If not for advertising, then how would NBC justify serving such media intensive content? Obviously there are people out there with both televisions and computers who prefer to watch their shows on a computer.

 

So who wins in this equation…definitely not the advertisers. As I’m writing this post, I clicked to view an episode of Heroes on NBC’s website. I was expecting to probably see an in-video about Nissan’s Versa, instead I was served an ad by Comfort Inn. As I was recovering from being totally juked out, I tried to my limited ability to ask myself, “Why Comfort Inn?” I’m not so sure if this is a good fit. What assumptions does the Comfort Inn advertising group make for the type of viewership the Heroes? I am no expert in advertising or marketing, but to me, Heroes is a more adult version of many of the comics my generation grew up on, so I’m thinking:

 

  • Majority age range of 20-30

  • Young professional

  • Income bracket somewhere between $45k and six figures.

 

Not having done any research, these are loosely based assumptions, so no need to bash me, I’m just using it as an example to further my observations….Ok, lets wrap this up. My point is that the advertising is not engaging, and neither would a Nissan Versa ad. If I was traveling, I would probably google map a list of hotels in the area, and depending on whether I’m paying myself or on the company dime, I would make my decision there. Or if I was going to purchase a new car, I would make a set of decisions – sedan or coupe, power or efficiency, price range, and then visit a review site. I can see the product placement of the Versa in the show “One of the heroes is driving the Versa,” because it plays on the emotional appeal of the viewer. Some idiot out there will think they’ll be as cool if they drive the same car as the time-bending character.

 

Recently, I interviewed with a social networking company for an advertising analysis manager position. Before the meeting, I read an interesting article on the economist about the implications of advertising on today’s many web 2.0 companies. A lot of what that writer said makes a whole lot of sense to me. The problem with advertising is the difficulty of engaging the user to create an experience. Only then is it likely that you will see the percentage of performance significantly increase. The article goes on to talk about search engines and social networks. User types something to the tune of “I want to buy a car” and I’m sure a lot of of the hits will come back with websites that will let you purchase a car online, or tell you how to. Whereas with a social network, user types into the interests section, “I like South Park,” and an ad to purchase a dvd box set of south park is served. But the conversion rate is low. In fact, despite being one of the most popular and intuitive social networks, Facebook has one of the lowest CTR’s in its space. This has been a problem plaguing online advertising for a long time coming. Would I be able to solve this problem? Haha…..(wipes tears from eyes)…no. In the recent slew of acquisitions by big tech companies (Yahoo/Third Screen Media, Microsoft/aQuantum, Google/DoubleClick), it is apparent that this has been on the mind of these technology powerhouses for some time. Mobile or Internet advertising, everyone is trying to cover their own asses, paying high premiums to ensure their livelihood into the next big mobile stretch, which I’m sure was a good choice. But living in Silicon Valley, where the advertising startups flow like the salmon of Capistrano, something tells me that very few to no advertising companies have yet to discover the holy grail solution. What this also says to me is that those starting up don’t think the ones already in the game are close to getting it right.

 

 

So how to create the experience? Going back to my previous examples, personalize the ad, put Hiro in the passenger seat with a silhouette in the drivers seat of a brand new Nissan Versa with some catchy tag like, “Save the world, save the cheerleader, save $1500 on a brand new Nissan Versa.” Or put Hayden Panettiere in a cheerleader outfit sitting in a Comfort Inn room with a *come in* gesture. That’ll definitely help create an experience (She is 18, right?)

 

Hayden

Either that, or narrow the focus of your demographic. For giant social networks where user’s interests are grouped, finding an advertiser that can generate a decent conversion rate would be hard to find. Large retail companies like Best Buy, Amazon, etc. Is the target of your monetization based on the relevancy, behavior, or actions of your users?

 

Bringing it back to Web 2.0, one company that I kept my eye on for some time is Loopt, a mobile LBS startup. It notifies you when one of your buddies (on Boost or Sprint, and also has the service) has stepped into a certain proximity of you. Somewhat limited, but pretty sweet right? Having been time-tested on Boost’s network, it recently scored big with an agreement to serve on Sprint’s network. Now a solution that will make it even easier for cheating spouses to get away with it….jk but it has a wide range of implications; I only see good things for this company. When they roll out with an ad-supported platform (incorporating the same technology to track businesses on the radar), I’ll be first in line to download the service.

 

Kinda long…yeah I know. But I hope this is a good transitory post from what I’ve recently been posting to the goals I hope to achieve with this blog. In the next big post (I’m going to subpost a viral link test), I will lay out my first idea that I hope will stir some discussion. Happy Turkey Day, I’ve got the turkey food coma.