Recent Pew reports, as well as our own survey, have found that consumers shopping in brick-and-mortar stores are increasingly using their mobile phones to contact others while they shop. The increasing capabilities of smartphones, combined with the emergence of powerful social platforms like social networking sites and crowd labor marketplaces, offer new opportunities for turning solitary in-store shopping into a rich social experience.We conducted a study to explore the potential of friendsourcing and paid crowdsourcing to enhance in-store shopping. Participants selected and tried on three outfits at a Seattle-area Eddie Bauer store; we created a single, composite image showing the three potential purchases side-by-side. Participants then posted the image to Facebook, asking their friends for feedback on which outfit to purchase; we also posted the image to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, and asked up to 20 U.S.-based Turkers to identify their favorite outfit, provide comments explaining their choice, and provide basic demographic information (gender, age).
Although none of our participants had used paid crowdsourcing before, and all were doubtful that it would be useful to them when we described what we planned to do at the start of the study session, the shopping feedback provided by paid crowd workers turned out to be surprisingly compelling to participants – more so than the friendsourced feedback from Facebook, in part because the crowd workers were more honest, explaining not only what looked good, but also what looked bad, and why! They also enjoyed the ability to see how opinions varied among different demographic groups (e.g., did male raters prefer a different outfit than female raters?).
Although Mechanical Turk had a speed advantage over Facebook, both sources generally provided multiple responses within a few minutes – fast enough that a shopper could get real-time decision-support information from the crowd while still in the store.
Our CSCW 2014 paper on “Remote Shopping Advice” describes our study in more detail, as well as how our findings can be applied toward designing next-generation social shopping experiences.
For more, see our full paper, Remote Shopping Advice: Enhancing In-Store Shopping with Social Technologies.
Meredith Ringel Morris, Microsoft Research
Kori Inkpen, Microsoft Research
Gina Venolia, Microsoft Research