Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shopycat: How To Find the Perfect Gift This Holiday Season

The holiday season is the season of gift giving. A thoughtful and welcome gift is a source of joy both to the giver and to the recipient. Unfortunately, it is also a very stressful -- and often unsuccessful -- process to find the perfect gift for all the people in our lives.

The reason is simple: the way we find gifts today is simply not very efficient. We amble through stores and malls until a product we think might be a good gift for a friend, a family member, or a coworker catches our eye. This is a time-consuming, hit or miss process, more often than not resulting in gifts that match our tastes and interests rather than those of our recipients. The ubiquity of gift receipts and the number of store returns right after the holidays are testimony to this disappointing state of affairs.

Today at @WalmartLabs, we’re launching Shopycat, a Facebook app that makes gift- giving less stressful and more fun. There are two steps to finding the perfect gift. The first step is knowing the tastes and interests of the recipient. Shopycat infers the interests of each of your friends by analyzing their Facebook activity through likes, shares and posts using our Social Genome technology. For example, Shopycat notices that my friend Joe keeps posting about the Red Sox, and infers that he is a Red Sox-- and therefore, a baseball -- fan. Shopycat analyzes likes and shares to infer tastes as varied as Harry Potter, running, Angry Birds, sushi, yoga, and parenting to recommend gifts.

The second step is to search across a large universe of products to find the one “wow” gift that doesn’t break the bank. Shopycat matches users’ interests to a giant catalog that includes products from, Walmart and sites including Barnes and Noble, RedEnvelope, ThinkGeek, and Hot Topic.  For users who are not very active on Facebook, Shopycat will recommend appropriate gift cards from Walmart, iTunes, Starbucks, and Zynga. And for last minute shoppers, the app also shows the location of the nearest Walmart store to pick up your gifts.

Shopycat’s gift recommendations for my friends include:

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. 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.”

We will measure our success by the number of smiles Shopycat brings this holiday season.  Yet this is only the first step of a long journey as we reinvent gift-giving for the way we live now. Please take Shopycat for a spin and send us your feedback to help us improve. After all, there are birthdays, graduations and anniversaries just around the corner.
Here's a short video we made that shows off Shopycat at work.