Would You Let a Virtual Robot Shop for You?

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Photo: Courtesy of MonaHQ.com

Shopping, either as a personal ritual or a necessity, has transformed in the modern era. Since the Internet became a major engine for consumerism, digital retail has begun to dominate the way we shop. In fact, according to this Nielsen Global Online Survey, 85 percent of the world’s population now shops online. As online shopping grows and digital retail platforms continue to evolve, a lot of companies are opting into mobile applications as well.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but with all of the technology and choice now available, navigating the new tech-driven era of retail can be frustrating. Finding the perfect thing is no longer good enough; we want the right thing at the right price. But we often don’t know when that coveted item will go on sale, or if it will ever be marked down to a price we can afford. Furthermore, with millions and millions of items available, you are now given the ability to customize your desires down to the stitching. With so much information to digest and keep track of, one potential solution has emerged for the girl who has everything (at her fingertips): the virtual personal shopper.

Most retail markets track consumer data in order to analyze trends and improve their businesses. Enterprising entrepreurs have turned this data into algorithms that can ensure a unique shopping experience, especially when it comes to shopping on your phone. One such application called Mona was recently launched by a group of former Amazon.com employees who recognized how consumer behavior was evolving. Mona is a virtual shopper that allows you to create “Missions” like  “Skinny Jeans Under $100”. After setting and narrowing down the parameters for your search, Mona will virtually crawl hundreds of retailers to track down the perfect item for you. She is a personalized Artificial Intelligence – a brilliant little virtual robot equipped with knowledge of what you want and how much you want to spend. She does the work for you. According to MonaHQ.com, “The more you interact with Mona, the better she’ll get to know you.” She’ll even analyze previous purchases in your inbox, which would be creepy if it weren’t for how effective it was.

Other virtual shopping apps are popping up on the market as well, including Glanse, which focuses specifically on sale items, Mezi, which also offers concierge support, and Strut, which employs the same “swipe right” and “swipe left” selection apparatus as Tinder to narrow the focus of what you like and then gathers possible choices based on your preferences.

While the idea of having a savvy virtual robot who knows your tastes sounds appealing, this editor still hasn’t abandoned her love of lazily scrolling through retail sites for hours at a time. However, as consumer tastes change, the tide of virtual shopping apps is rising alongside it and, while they are still in their fledgling stages of growth, something tells us that one day soon we’ll be turning to our phones exclusively to perform all of our consumer functions.

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