The Brazilian fashion retailer C&A has created networked clothes hooks that display the total number of Facebook "Likes" for each garment in real time. On the company's Facebook page, pictures of various outfits are shown that users can Like, and those totals are fed into the hooks in the São Paulo store. While using Facebook to advertise clothes offerings isn't anything new, physically displaying them in a store is. Although fairly simple in its delivery, the initiative, called Fashion Like, is a novel way to bridge the physical and virtual worlds for customers.
The promotional video for the service pitches the idea like this (translated from Portuguese): "When they go clothes shopping, women always feel insecure and want a second opinion. But one second opinion is never enough. So how about finding what everyone on Facebook thinks of a particular item of clothing?" At the end, viewers are presented with an altruistic pitch: "So give 'Likes' to the clothes you like more and help thousands of women in their difficult mission of choosing the ideal outfit."
Now, anyone with a smartphone could go to the store and pull up the Facebook page to find out the number of Likes that the garment has. The new hooks, however, offer that information instantly and allow for rapid comparisons. There's a good chance that shoppers will check the comments in Facebook about the garment before buying or post a comment after they purchase it and like it.
So on the surface, Fashion Like may seem like a gimmick to generate buzz, but what C&A is doing is encouraging customers to use Facebook more, which allows them to access the brand anytime, anywhere.
As cool as it is to see this kind of crossover of a web service into the physical world, the approach is not without its issues. First of all, hitting a button because you like a picture is not a very informed view. Even if its generally understood that users are not making authoritative opinions with a single click, the Facebook Like total is akin to a simple fan review, kind of like the number of seats sold at a football game. Additionally, the Like count is a populist vote - the number on its own is meaningless, so it's significance is gauged through a comparison of the numbers from one item to the next. And then there's the possibility of fraudulent behavior, such as rigging the numbers by hiring people to Like a particular garment using Amazon Mechanical Turk to pay out pennies per Like, or the crowd could abuse the up-voting system just as the most viewed videos on YouTube list has been abused.
In the end, C&A has found a way to tighten its ecosystem and appeal to those who want to be part of the social-media-meets-physical-world loop. This is only the beginning as other companies are bound to experiment with breaking the virtual world into the physical as they seek the most valuable currency of the modern world: data.