Trends in Japan

Digital shopping technology makes models out of consumers

By Rebecca Milner

Thanks to a jumpstart from web 2.0 innovations, online shopping is going from a solitary, static, and ultimately convenient alternative, to an instantly gratifying social experience that aims to bring in as much from the terrestrial shopping experience as possible. Welcome to the new era of digital shopping lifestyle, starring YOU.

Tastemaker and online retail juggernaut set an early benchmark when it launched an accompanying social networking site,, last year. In addition to standard blog and photo album functions, Style-walker members have avatars (cutely named “dolls”) for which they can purchase matching outfits modeled after the real items available on Girlswalker. Users can experiment with different clothing combinations, as if dressing-up a real-world doll, while the digital upgrade allows for each new look to be recorded in a “stylebook” to share with friends online for critique.

Style-walker AvatarStyle-walker Avatar

While avatars have their appeal, it isn’t just about what looks good together but what looks good on you, hence the latest innovation: The user as the model. This May, Avielan Co. debuted a software application called Awaseba that allows online shoppers to virtually try on clothing and accessories. After registering on the site and uploading a photo, shoppers are able to access the free service from any retail site subscribing to Awaseba, and mix and match before they buy online.

Style-walker Avatar

On the same note, So-Net entertainment recently launched a virtual hairstyle makeover site, aptly called “Hair Style.” This free mobile-based service applies selected new styles to user-uploaded portraits, and with striking realism. Hair Style also provides information on which salons specialize in each look, thus adding a retail element with monetization possibilities.

With the immense popularity (and profitability) of online shopping, constant innovation is essential in attracting an audience for whom elements of a digital lifestyle are not just exciting new functions, but expected components. We may be moving to the point where trying on an outfit online, or by mobile phone, will soon be normal before any purchase.JI

Rebecca Milner is a Trend Scout for Cscout Japan, part of the global Cscout market research, Trend Scouting, and Experience/Trend Tour network. With a cross-industry focus on current and emerging trends in the rapidly changing Japanese market, their popular daily blog can be found at