WWD.com/globe-news/digital/facebook-users-pick-favorite-fashion-retailers-467195/

Facebook users can proclaim their affection for certain retailers — including Barneys New York, H&M, Coach and Marc Jacobs — on their profiles thanks to a recently released widget called Mintbox.

This story first appeared in the February 6, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Widgets are mini applications such as quizzes and video sharing that users can add to their profile pages. At the moment, Facebook offers more than 70 fashion-related widgets from third parties, including Topshop and Victoria’s Secret. Most are quizzes about personal style and trends added by fashion bloggers and other fashion-related sites such as FabSugar and ShopStyle.

Observers say widgets are the advertising form of the future. “Widget ads are going to replace traditional CPM [cost per thousand impressions] banner advertising because they engage consumers more,” said Allen Stern, a blogger and technology consultant who writes at Centernetworks.com. “But it may take time to get buy-in from advertisers,” he said, because widgets don’t necessarily drive surfers to the advertiser’s Web site.

As of press time, Topshop’s widget was the most popular, with 1,357 active daily users. Most of the other widgets had about 100 or just a handful of users. Mintbox had 112 active daily users.

Mintbox users can pick favorite retailers from a list to display on their profile page within the Mintbox application. They can also use the application to broadcast details of planned shopping trips in the real world to friends and to see if their friends are planning any shopping trips. Recent retailers on the list included the above as well as Lucky, Zara, Emporio Armani, Kenneth Cole, Kate Spade, The North Face, Nike, Diesel, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Miss Sixty, Louis Vuitton, Energie and Saks.

Vercai Inc. of San Francisco, which created Mintbox, hopes to work directly with retailers that might want to contact their fans with news of private sales, parties and featured merchandise. Eventually, Mintbox hopes to capture credit-card numbers from users at registration so it can track sales and charge retailers a 1 to 2 percent commission on sales in stores or online. Alternatively, Mintbox could charge for every guest who RSVPs for an event, or Mintbox users might pay a small fee to get into a private sale or party, said Adam Leining, Vercai founder and president. There is no charge for being on the list, and Leining said he plans to expand it to 50 or 60 retailers in the next six months.

Vercai’s market testing has shown that 75 or 80 percent of Mintbox users will be female and typically 25 to 34 years of age, said Leining. “They’re fashion-conscious and extroverted.”

Denim retailer National Jean Co. also added a widget in the last few weeks to share photos of celebrities wearing some of the jeans brands it sells. Users can vote on the looks and share them with friends.

Topshop’s Fashion Fix shows users its latest looks. Users can pick items to display on their profiles, vote on styles and share them with friends.