The retailing giant has launched ShopyCat, an application which analyses the profiles of people you would like to buy a present for, based on their Facebook use, and then suggests appropriate gifts.

Walmart is making use of the capability of social networks, already much appreciated by advertisers, in order to offer products to customers who are looking to really personalise the presents they buy for their friends. The newly-launched ShopyCat is a Facebook application which advises an Internet user on a gift suited to the recipient’s tastes. Walmart’s starting point is the observation that people often struggle to find an appropriate present as they don’t really know what their recipient would – or would not – like to receive. 

Collection and analysis of personal data

The app works in two stages. First it collects all available information on the user’s friends. The software then analyses the friends’ profiles and Facebook posts. Once this data has been collected and analysed the software uses the behavioural tendencies thrown up by the analysis to suggest a number of products that are available for purchase via

Advertising aimed at the user’s friends rather than the user

The application also recommends links to partner sites such as RedEnvelope, Barnes & Noble and ThinkGeek. For example, if a user is looking to buy a present for a friend who said s/he ‘liked’ the film Super 8, the software will recommend the DVD of that movie as a possible gift. However, if the friend’s preferences are not clear from his/her profile, the app will direct the giver towards more neutral products, such as gift vouchers. However, this recommendation system applies only to presents in the entertainment/culture and electronic products categories.