Today 3D social shopping game Stylmee launched an HTML5 web version of its virtual shopping game, which until now was only available as a free iPad app. The game, which allows shoppers to browse and buy items at boutiques created by brands and fellow players, launched in private beta in September 2011, and opened up its iPad app to the public in December, though it’s currently being updated to reflect the web app’s functionality.
“I thought it would be cool to be able to buy jeans from your phone, but when we looked into some key data behind social game FarmVille, and saw that the largest segment of users were women 25 – 44, that’s when it hit us,” founder Basil Farano said about the idea behind Stylmee. “Entertainment was going to be a key factor for brand engagement for the future. So we decided to create an ‘intelligent’ social game around fashion.”
On Stylmee, shoppers can shop at boutiques within a virtual 3D city, and open, design and run their own virtual boutiques, which are stocked with real items from Stylmee’s inventory of between 2,000 and 3,000 items. Shoppers earn the game’s virtual currency, Stylcash, based on the success of the items in their boutique, which they can use to purchase furniture and fixings for their boutique, and to unlock brand offers and rewards on real merchandise. When another player likes a style in their shop it earns them currency, and boutique owners can change up their inventory at any time to increase “sales.” Users can also purchase additional Stylcash for $.99 or $1.99, and can purchase boutique upgrades in cash (two boutique upgrades for $.99 or $2.99, depending on the size of the boutique).
Players also earn points when people like items in their boutique, which help them advance to higher levels in the game – the higher the level, the more rewards they earn on real merchandise. “The higher the level, the better the offers; everything from free products to discounts on goods to free shipping,” Farano said. “We also have plans to offer ‘fashion experiences’ for our users. So imagine winning a personal tour of a brand showroom, or the ability to chat with a brand designer or have a free styling session with a top stylist.”
Along with the user-generated boutiques, there are also branded boutiques featuring items from specific companies, as well as affiliate partners inlcuding Bluefly, Shopbop and Yoox. Shoppers can buy items in any boutique by clicking the “Buy” button on the product’s page. Or, shoppers can purchase items by browsing brand collections in the app, without visiting a boutique. Farano said they are in talks with a number of fashion brands, but getting them on board has been a challenge, and smaller, boutique brands have been more receptive.
“When we mentioned ‘social games’ two years ago, [brands] looked at us like we had three heads,” Farano said. “We realized that getting individual brands on board wasn’t the path of least resistance, so we partnered with some really great e-commerce retailers through affiliates that have allowed us to have a deep, quality product selection for our members.”
The company has several revenue streams. They take a percentage of each physical item sold through the site, though Farano wouldn’t comment on how much they take. There are also the in-app purchases, both for boutique upgrades and additional Stylcash. They also offer brands to promote within the game through branded furniture, in-app challenges, and virtual billboards. “When we look at revenue options, we first want to make sure that it wont interfere with the user experience & the ecommerce experience, but actually entertain and bring added value to our membership,” Farano said. “Our approach is about being entertaining & non-intrusive. We want our members to have great experiences within the app and with our partnered brands.”
Though Farano isn’t releasing user numbers, he said the apps has tens of thousands of downloads, and that 18 percent of those users made in-app purchases to upgrade their boutiques or purchase more Stylcash. The company is self-funded, but Farano said they will likely start to look for outside investment after the updated iPad app is released. They also have plans to release an iPhone app.
Stylmee looks to be trying to replicate the success of simulation games like The Sims, which had a largely female demographic, and Second Life, which features in-world shopping in its online virtual world. By adding gamification to the online shopping experience, and providing rewards on real-life merchandise, they could tap into a new demographic of online shoppers, who are less concerned with ecommerce sites, and more concerned with the success of their virtual boutiques.