Retail future? Etsy patents interactive online marketplace with video streaming

Online retail is constantly evolving. One retailer on the move is New York-based Etsy, an online marketplace known for its kitsch and cutesy handicrafts.

Etsy — which filed for an initial public offering this month — has patented a ‘method for performing interactive online shopping.’

Currently online shopping involves going online, browsing products and making a purchase. Typically there’s very little interaction between vendor and buyer, possibly a live chat, or letting a consumer know that the item is in stock and delivering a confirmation email after purchase.

A retailer may also post a video of a product demo or review on Youtube, which then directs potential shoppers to a link where they can buy the product.

What Esty is proposing goes one step further, by providing interactive elements in real time and video streaming.

According to patent 8,924,261, Etsy is working on a method for “administering a live, online, interactive shopping event.”

The patent application details a virtual event area where buyers are represented with avatars, there will be an image of an item being sold and a live video stream provided by the event host within the web page.

The buyer can view, discuss and purchase the item being sold and chat to each other or the host. “The  host may poll buyers participating in an online shopping experience to get the opinions of the buyers on topics for which the host may desire feedback,” the patent document states.

This is a platform that would provide a personal and unique interaction between retailer and consumer, more suitable to build up a brand rather than move a large volume of stock.

While details are at this stage still sketchy, here’s how a similar platform could be potentially work.  Say, for example, Breville have Heston Blumenthal in town, now he’s a busy man but wouldn’t it be great if he could pop into your store, chat to a few customers and answer their questions about a new slow cooker or espresso machine? This kind of online platform could allow for that service.

Or it could be useful for introducing a new kind of product which relies on a detailed demonstration and may provoke many questions, such as the Tefal Cuisine Companion.

Sound like a complicated attempt to recreate an in-store experience online? Omnichannel retailers are more and more employing  strategies that compensate for the emotional detachment that comes from shopping online — where you can’t touch or feel a product — but still provide the convenience the medium offers.

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