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March 10 2011

Online Fashion Retailer Bluefly Tries On Social Gaming

Online designer fashion retailer Bluefly has partnered with social rewards startup Badgeville to add social gaming into its website experience.

Bluefly will be rewarding customers for onsite shopping behaviors including watching videos, reading blog posts, writing reviews or creating wishlists. The idea is to turn shoppers into Bluefly-engaged fashion gamers.

“Players” will earn badges, based on their behaviors, that highlight their various fashion credentials. The more badges earned, and the higher quality, the better chance the Bluefly shopper will have at unlocking tangible rewards that come in the form of early access to products, badge-holder specials and discounts.

“At Bluefly, our customers are highly engaged in the world of fashion. They are voting on celebrity styles; they are talking with each other on our site to discuss outfits. Our goal is to look for innovative ways to foster that passion and to create opportunities for interaction,” says Bluefly CEO Melissa Payner. “The partnership with Badgeville is a great addition to our site because social games incentivize our customers for their interactions — interactions which we see as a key component of growing and strengthening the Bluefly community.”

While its unknown how shoppers will react to the new system, Bluefly, if successful in converting its customers into more engaged shoppers, has an opportunity to be a trendsetter among its fashion retail competitors.

The deal is also a win for Badgeville; the young startup already has competitors such as Bunchball in the white label social gaming space. This particular partnership should help Badgeville stand out and attract more top-tier clientele.

Both Bluefly and Badgeville are mum on whether money exchanged hands as the partnership was formed.

More About: badgeville, bluefly, game mechanics, gamification, MARKETING, social gaming

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December 31 2010

5 Predictions for Startups in 2011

How we engage with the people, places and things around us is ever-changing thanks to rapid improvements in mobile and web technologies. The speed at which this evolution takes place will only continue to accelerate in 2011 with the help of fledgling startups who will push the boundaries around geolocation, mobile photos, entertainment services, community and physical-to-digital connections.

What follows is an exploration of five significant startup markets that will grow in significance in 2011. Some of these specialized categories are ripe for disruption and innovation, while others have already produced early leaders that will be difficult to best.

Regardless, the startups iterating in these newly invented product categories will capture our imagination in the year ahead and transform the way we use technology in our daily lives.

Read on for five major trends that will hit startups in 2011, and let us know your own predictions in the comments below.

1. The Rise of Object Tagging

As constant web and mobile users, we’ve all grown accustomed to tagging people and places in photos and status updates. In the year ahead, new services will help us tag real world objects in much the same fashion.

QR code and barcode scanning mobile applications are growing in popularity and purpose, and we’re quickly moving towards a scanning and tagging world where we use apps like Barcode Hero or Stickybits to add our own content to the physical objects we encounter in the real world.

The physical-to-digital connection is what will drive this trend in the new year. Startups such as thingd and Moodstocks have a more grandiose vision around creating digital databases of things, but they’re also creating products that are people-friendly and practical.

We’ve yet to see any one object tagging application or service become a breakout hit, but this will change in 2011 as more consumers warm up to the mobile and social discovery of “things.”

2. Entertainment Services Will Embrace the Checkin

2010 was the year of the checkin. What started as a simple, albeit explicit, way to publicly say “I’m here” mutated into a way for startups to create entertainment checkin services and for companies to build tools to help publishers keep visitors on site.

The entertainment-oriented services are an especially interesting group of services. GetGlue, Miso, Philo, Tunerfish, TV.com Relay and a handful of others have all cropped up with their own variations of the “check in to content, get rewards” concept. Most are successfully inking deals with studios and networks around their entertainment properties, and just recently, GetGlue grabbed $6 million in a Series C round led by Time Warner Investments.

Within this fast-maturing niche is still room for innovation. The opportunities are in motivating user behavior around entertainment content and surfacing fail-proof recommendations.

Somewhere sandwiched amongst Clicker, Rotten Tomatoes, GetGlue, Boxee and Netflix is something that can actually figure out what we really want to watch right now and help us watch it in a fashion that supports the interests of studios and networks. It might be a combination of semantic intelligence, social media and game mechanics, or it could be something entirely new.

There’s certainly money to be had here. Investors are financing these ideas, networks are looking for strategic partnerships and cable companies have money to spend.

3. Website Communities Will Dominate the Digital Experience

The rise of the social web has led to brands and businesses emphasizing Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube and their social presence over their own website. Social will remain a top priority in 2011, but there will be a website renaissance that focuses on bringing the community back to the site.

2010 has laid the foundation for this movement with the emergence of publisher tools that drive website visitor engagement. Badgeville, OneTrueFan, Marginize, Meebo and Envovle, for instance, are all working on their solutions for the website-as-community concept.

Badgeville lets publishers install a plug-and-play product that adds social rewards and gaming elements to their websites — think rewarding user activity with badges and achievements, à la Foursquare. OneTrueFan also applies game mechanics to website content and Meebo will release its own solution for web checkins in 2011.

Marginize’s browser extension pulls social conversations into a site’s margin but its publisher tool eliminates the need for the extension and lets visitors check in, earn badges and rewards, and participate in onsite comment threads that can be pushed out to social networks. Envolve, however, takes a Facebook-chat style approach to website engagement.

There will continue to be rapid innovation around publisher community tools in the new year. I’m not yet convinced that 2011 will be the year web users completely embrace this idea, but this trend will certainly be pushed forward by publishers who use these tools to engineer a more compelling reason for the visitor to stay and engage. Should they do so successfully, the fruits of their labor will be users that remain on site, share their activity with social networks and influence upticks in traffic, and possibly even sales.

4. Private Location Services Become More Popular

In 2011, the location-sharing counter culture will emerge as mobile users demand less social, more practical tools for sharing their whereabouts with smaller circles of friends and family members.

There’s clearly an audience that appreciates the visibility and rewards that come with checkins, and that is not likely to change. But, a growing number of mobile users will want to apply geolocation technology to their personal lives — think keeping track of the kids, knowing that a significant other made it home safely, or sending and receiving timely notifications based on geographic location.

Consumer-friendly Neer is a prime example of how always-on location technology can be highly personalized and yet not overly intrusive. Geoloqi’s geonotes further personalize the experience by allowing you to leave notes for you or your friends at various locations.

In 2011, we’ll see more applications and services emerge with similar purpose due to advancements in geofencing, proximity awareness and mobile device technologies. Perhaps the only barrier to mainstream adoption is the strain that these services place on mobile phone batteries.

5. Mobile Photo Sharing Takes Off

We’re in the midst of a mobile photo sharing boom that has yet to reach its climax. Due to rapid improvements in handset technology, it’s now possible to take a stunning photo and upload it to the web in seconds.

Applications that build expressly around this purpose have cropped up in recent months and prove the viability of this emerging market. Instagram, for instance, has surpassed 1 million registered users in just 10 weeks’ time. With this type of momentum, the startup looks to be an unstoppable force.

But greatness will not be achieved in replicating the features or filters of Instagram, at least in an iPhone app. Android may still be up for grabs, though not if Picplz has a say in the matter.

Purpose will matter just as much as a platform. Foodspotting, DailyBooth and Path all have put their own unique spin on mobile photos. Still, the underlying mobile photo sharing trend can be applied in a number of yet-to-be fully explored fashions.

Because smartphone adoption is nowhere close to capacity, and growth is anticipated in the new year, there’s still time for a few more big ideas around mobile photo sharing to emerge in 2011.

More Startup Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Lessons Big Corporations Can Learn From Startups
- HOW TO: Get the Most Out of a Coworking Space
- 5 Signs That Coworking Might Be for You
- 37 Productivity Tips for Working From Anywhere
- Why Co-Working Makes Sense for Small Businesses

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, LuisPortugal
Images courtesy of Flickr, jcoleman, dan taylor

Reviews: Android, Boxee, Clicker, DailyBooth, Facebook, Flickr, Path, Rotten Tomatoes, Twitter, YouTube, foursquare, iStockphoto, instagram

More About: badgeville, barcode hero, barcode scanning, Envolve, geolocation, geoloqi, getglue, instagram, List, Lists, miso, mobile photo sharing, mobile photos, moodstocks, neer, picplz, predictions-2011, QR Codes, startups, thingd

For more Startups coverage:

December 15 2010

Indie Fashion Website Rewards You For Having Taste

This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark.. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Moxsie

Quick Pitch: Moxsie is a community-driven, online shop that crowdsources design input from its users. Today the site is unveiling a partnership with Badgeville, a white-label social rewards and analytics company, to create custom social rewards to stir up even more participation among the Moxsie community.

Genius Idea: Yes, there are a ton of social media-savvy fashion brands out there tapping into community to make product decisions — Ann Taylor and Levi’s spring to mind — but Moxsie aims to be a one-two punch when it comes to putting power in the hands of the people.

First of all, the site is replete with wares from indie designers, giving folks access to the kind of boutique shopping that may not be available in their hometowns. Secondly, the site takes matters a step further and allows its users to call the shots in many respects. Moxise, with the help of its 115,000-plus-person Twitter feed as well as Ustream, frequently holds what it calls “#BuyerChats,” during which followers can give direct feedback and advice to designers who sell on the website. That way, users can do more than just shop — they can decide what products are actually manufactured.

“Fashion used to be associated with the unattainable,” says Moxsie CEO Jon Fahrner. “Moxsie takes an open, inclusive approach where anyone can come to discover their own personal style. And now, with #BuyerChat and Facebook badges, anyone can participate in the process of creating fashion and be rewarded for their insights and ideas. And, now designers who are under-distributed and lack brick-and-mortar stores can get in on the Foursquare-style buzz they’ve been missing.”

Fahrner is referring to Moxsie’s new Badgeville partnership, which will enable the site to reward active users with badges that can be shared and displayed via their social networks. Now, before you start rolling your eyes over the value of a virtual badge (“Oh, pretty, so what?”), the badge isn’t the only thing users will receive. Badges, which will be earned in an incremental fashion (Buyer-In-Training, Head Buyer and Celebrity Buyer, etc.), will also garner users store credit and possibly even internships. There will also be a leaderboard on which users can keep track of their ranking.

“Brands need new ways to engage users through techniques from social interactions and modern loyalty programs,” says Kris Duggan, CEO and founder of Badgeville. “As social gaming continues to grow –- commerce is the next frontier.”

Although Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley announced that the checkin service would start experimenting with badge rewards back in June, we haven’t seen that many instances of badges going hand-in-hand with actual prizes. We’re interested to see what this union does in terms of consumer engagement.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, berekin

Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark

BizSpark is a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: badges, badgeville, business, fashion, MARKETING, moxsie, spark-of-genius, startup

For more Startups coverage:

October 14 2010

Badgeville Gives Publishers Trendy, Plug-and-Play Game Mechanics

This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Badgeville

Quick Pitch: Badgeville is a social rewards and analytics platform designed to increase, maintain and influence loyalty for online publishers.

Genius Idea: Applications and web services that reward users through activity-based bonuses like badges and reputation tokens are very trendy right now. These game mechanics encourage repeat behavior, inspire user engagement and reward loyalty.

Badgeville was built to be a plug-and-play solution for publishers wishing to add these social rewards to their services without the heavy lifting.

Badgeville is a just-add-water way to reward your app users or site visitors for their actions. Publishers can define the user behaviors they want to reward and attach points, badges, trophies, levels, status and other forms of reputation to these behaviors.

Should a user “unlock” an achievement, those tokens can be shared to Facebook and Twitter, and users can earn more points in the process. Publishers can also highlight user behaviors through real-time activity streams, leaderboards or friends graphs that rank users against their friends. There’s also a Badgeville API for deeper site or app integration.

Obviously, the idea is to use Badgeville’s platform to motivate users to take additional actions and spread the word about your product or service as they level up or earn elevated status. As an user, these additional elements may turn an otherwise stale experience into a competitive sport. So users can prove their ultimate fan status for a blog, website or application they love and get digital rewards in the process. Who doesn’t appreciate a little recognition from time to time?

Badgeville is fresh on the scene but has $250,000 in seed funding and a client list that includes SlideShare, Comcast Sports and Philly.com. We find the idea to be promising, but we also see the potential for badges, reputation and rewards to lose their luster once they become commonplace.

Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark

BizSpark is a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: badges, badgeville, game mechanics, loyalty, loyalty program, rewards

For more Tech coverage:

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