Jetting off to Paris and Milan to handpick the latest fashions is a pretty glamorous gig—if you can get it. So here’s a more attainable goal for wannabe fashionistas: Become a virtual buyer on Moxsie, a "community-driven" startup that sells clothing, shoes, and accessories crafted by independent designers.
Two months ago, Moxsie began posting pictures and videos of sample products on Twitter during the company’s regular merchandising meetings, and allowing its 115,000 followers to send instant feedback on which fabrics, colors, and designs they like or dislike. Moxsie then uses their input to decide which products to stock up on.
Now, as of today, Moxsie is introducing a badge system (a la Foursquare) that it’s hoping will inspire more of its fans to get more involved in the buying process. If a virtual badge sound lame, consider this—it could end up landing you a real job on Moxsie’s buying team. "We’re not only trying to get more merchandising feedback," says Jon Fahrner, CEO of Palo Alto-based Moxsie (and former employee number three at online shoe powerhouse Zappos). "We’re also selfishly trying to find future employees."
Here’s how the new badge system works: If you join one Twitter-based buyer chat (Moxsie holds the events about twice a week), you automatically earn your first badge. From there, the quality and quantity of your feedback will determine how fast you work your way up to levels like "head buyer" and "celebrity buyer," and win store credit, an internship, or even a paid position at Moxsie.
"Rewards don't need to be tangible items to successfully motivate behavior, though they can be," says Kris Duggan, CEO of Badgeville, a social rewards platform Moxsie has partnered with to distribute its new virtual badges. "Take LinkedIn, for example. Their unfinished progress bar when you fill in your information makes you want to complete your profile."
A sense of accomplishment may be enough to incentivize LinkedIn users, but it’s likely Moxsie’s most active amateur buyers are hoping they’ll be rewarded with more than an honorary badge to post on their Facebook profile.
"If you’re spending that much time curating and participating in buyer chats, chances are you’re interested in a career in fashion," says Susan Etlinger, a consultant who tracks social technologies for the Altimeter Group, a research and consulting firm based in San Mateo, Calif.
Moxsie is not the first company to bring crowdsourcing to the fashion world. From Wet Seal to Threadless, retailers have been asking customers to put together outfits and vote on their favorite designs for several years. But Moxsie’s decision to open up its merchandising meetings to its community represents a whole new level of crowdsourcing innovation—not to mention unpaid labor.
So will large retailers like Gap and Urban Outfitters take a page from the startup? "I think they will," says Etlinger. Moxsie’s Fahrner says most professional fashion buyers consider past sales, trend research, and their own gut feeling when deciding which products to buy (at Zappos, he was the senior buyer). "But with buyer chats, we’re creating another merchandising element—the community’s reaction."