Apple Store + Facebook / Second Life = Apple Store 2.0?
Yet another recently revealed Apple patent
shows the company has been working on a plan to create a more expansive online presence, in this instance by combining online shopping and social networking as a way to get consumers to spend more money. Seeking to combat an online shopping experience that the company characterizes as "sterile and isolating," the patent would bring elements of social networks like Facebook and 3D graphics such as those in Second Life to the e-commerce world.
Apple originally filed this application, called Enhancing Online Shopping Atmosphere
. with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in September 2006. It appears that the application went through in 2008, indicating that more work may have been done in the intervening period. However, let's take a trip back in time to the year 2006, when gas was $2.20 a gallon, Amazon was shipping everything for free because of plummeting sales, and people were still using MySpace and Second Life. Apple inventor David Koski, whose name is on the patent, presents a new model for online shopping that would halt the then-apparent decline in interest in buying things online.
"One drawback of online shopping," Koski wrote, "is that the experience can feel sterile and isolating." This cold and emotionless world, he continued, would cause people to "be less likely to have positive feelings about the online shopping experience," and as a result, they'd be "less inclined to engage in the online equivalent of window shopping." And therefore (here's the kicker), online shoppers "spend less money than their counterparts who shop in physical stores." Apple's idea for how to bring a little more fun to the shopping experience involves the use of Second Life-style avatars, and the creation of a whole separate level of interaction between shoppers.
For example, you could communicate directly with other shoppers to chat or ask questions, and make yourself available to answer questions about certain types of products. see how many other avatars were hovering near a particular product you are interested in on the online store, and get statistics like how people viewed that item on the same day you did, and be able to see nationwide and global buying data for the item, breaking it down by states or countries to give you an impression of its popularity. The application also outlines some ways that retailers could use the site for special promotions, like one where a shopper is able to "follow the footsteps" of other shoppers, following the user around the store in order to get a special deal or win a prize.