Walmart today rolled out its Shopycat Facebook app, which lets consumers see WalmartLabs-fueled gift suggestions for all of your Facebook friends, based on their posts and stated likes/dislikes. Walmartsaid that “Shopycat is designed to trigger gift ideas for friends ranging from music, books and movies to games and electronics, making gifting more fun and saving on time and the pressures of discovering the perfect gift.” About time that someone put an end to this pressure to find the perfect gift.
The idea is indeed interesting, as the Walmart algorithms have already done the work of predicting what would be desirable. Then again, does it factor in that something of strong interest to someone has likely already been purchased by—or for—them?
One nice touch about Shopycat is that it doesn’t technically limit its suggestions to Walmart.com and Walmart stores. When it does suggest something it doesn’t have, it will send customers to someone else, including Bed, Beth & Beyond and Barnes & Noble. It does not seem to be sending to true Walmart rivals, such as Target.com and Amazon.com, but even offering a token number of items to other sites is a nice gesture.
The app still has a few bugs to work out. When I deliberately chose a relatively inactive Facebook friend, the non-copyedited message read: “you has not shared enough information for Shopycat to determine an awesome-enough gift, so we are showing our top-rated gifts instead.” (And, yes, the site really does say “you has not.”)
Looks like the old-fashioned approach of calling people and asking them what they’d like—which automatically eliminates already-owned items—is a good way of connecting and that the antiseptic “let software analyze their postings and make suggestions” steps away from that.
In Walmart’s own announcement of Shopycat, the chain makes a similar point, but with a very different suggested course of action. “As human beings, we are inherently social and shopping is one of the most social activities we engage in,” said VenkyHarinarayan, senior vice president of Walmart Global eCommerce and co-founder of WalmartLabs.