Subservient Chicks Mark Progress in Online Shopping

KnickerPicker Saw an Opportunity Using Existing Technology -- and a Built-in PR Factor

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There are certain areas of human endeavor in which I think we ought to be further ahead. Transportation, for example. Given the staggering level and scope of human technological achievement, should something like, oh, I don't know, a jet pack really be that hard? (Writer/scientist Daniel Wilson addresses this kind of "future" disappointment in his 2007 book "Where's My Jetpack: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived.")

Online shopping (for clothes, most poignantly), is another of those things. Where's the holographic image of me that can make buying that untried label a safe(r) bet? Failing that, couldn't there be a better way of assisting potential buyers in evaluating items online than still photos of those items pinned and posed on a very tall person? A seemingly small but interesting advance in online shopping comes from an unlikely category -- lingerie -- and an unlikely site --

No rocket science here. It's just video. Honeyshed, a site I've written about in this space before, has offered video of products in action. But where HS has more of an entertainment bent, KP is pure utility. Visitors to the KnickerPicker Dressing Room area can choose from three models vaguely representing small, medium and large-ish frames, dress the model in selected items and have her walk toward the screen and turn around on command.

The U.K.-based site is the brainchild of four partners, Jason Talbot, Dan Gleeson, Tim Langley and Phil Edmonds. They've worked together in various advertising/marketing, media and digital capacities and saw an opportunity to create something new in the fashion sector using existing technology that combined video content and interactivity. "It was clear to us that fashion was most lacking in the use of digital experiences," says Talbot. "It's an emotive sector from the consumer's point of view; none of the brands seemed to have embraced that through digital. Others have made good branded-site experiences but none has tried to deliver a richer, more relevant and fun shopping experience, with a focus on making a better selection and being more confident in the purchase." And nowhere was this more relevant that in lingerie, says Talbot (of course it doesn't hurt that lingerie also has a built-in PR factor).

The site is a streamlined operation, with the partners handling all production and, uh, back end. At launch, KP included about 100 lines (visitors click over to lingerie site to actually purchase gear); in its next phase, Talbot says it'll grow to 300 lines, which entails three days of shooting and about a week of editing and programming. "It's not cost-prohibitive," says Talbot, it just requires a different skill set and change of mentality. Talbot says the site has received more than 1.5 million unique visitors, and the partners have made deals with U.S.-based online retailers for the site's next, expanded iteration, expected to be launched in March.

Something else that may expand: the size of some of the models. "We've found that there are five basic body shapes that cover the whole population," says Talbot. "We picked three of those that are close to representing 90%. But an obvious area of development for us is in larger sizes given that the average body shape is a size 14." Consumers are tired of being bombarded with stereotypes, says Talbot. "They are looking for a sense of transparency and reality that doesn't have to translate to ugly and depressing."

While every retailer will have to determine how real they want to get, KP offers a vision of how online shopping may evolve until such time as one can teleport to Barneys.

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and
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