The World’s Finest. In One Place.

You discover an object online that you like: maybe a pair of toe-capped ballet pumps, a unique espresso cup, or an antique door beautifully reincarnated as a desk. How do you capture it? How do you share it? How do you store it for a possible future purchase?

For a long time my solution was to post it to the Facebook wall of a friend who might also appreciate it. But of course, at the rate social media evolves, it was just a matter of time before this emergent form of online window-shopping became a focused activity in its own right. The past year has seen an explosion of sites such as SPOOTNIK, Svpply, Thefancy and rufflr, which are rede­­fining the activity of digital window shopping.

My bookmark bar is filled with buttons to “fancy it”, “spot it”, “rufflr it” or “want it”. Suppose I am admiring this handsome desk on its maker’s website—the “spot it” button allows me to instantly submit it to the editing team at SPOOTNIK.com.

On SPOOTNIK, users can browse a myriad of objects as they are “spotted” in real time, by category, or they can choose to look at the profile of a particular “spotter”.

Each object is attributed to the user that “spotted it”, which introduces some sense of ownership. I can enjoy much of the thrill of purchasing a unique piece worth thousands of dollars without spending a dime. The satisfaction that I had from “spotting” the desk and then seeing others “love” it far outweighs any momentary buzz from ogling it in the window of Pottery Barn. And SPOOTNIK has tapped into this by ranking all users based on the love shown for their spots. I’m currently a “distinguished lover,” but I can look forward to becoming a “fanatic spotter” and ultimately a “style guru”.

So the notion of window shopping, once a somewhat frustrating activity for those of limited means, is being refashioned as a sign of discernment and status. These platforms hint at an intriguing shift from shoppers receiving kudos for being able to buy, to spotters receiving kudos for their taste in for being able to choose before others.

If there are multiple sites with essentially the same offering, the question becomes which to go for. Beautiful as the desk may be, life is just too short to be sharing it on multiple sites. As you might have guessed, my allegiance lies with SPOOTNIK. Rufflr is limited to clothing. Thefancy is laid out one item at a time, and call me an impatient consumerist, but I prefer to scan over an array of spotted treasures. Svpply is, well, just not SPOOTNIK. Try each for yourself but I feel that one stands out in terms of website design, functionality, and quality of content. I must also admit that the ‘spotter’ rankings appeal to my competitive side.

So far these sites have focused on browsing and sharing, but their future lies in e-commerce. Thefancy has an integrated shop so that everything that has been ‘Fancied’ can be purchased through their site. Svpply (recently purchased by eBay) is looking at partnering with online shops, like Urban Outfitters, and inviting them to add the Svpply social plug-in. SPOOTNIK focuses on localized areas, so each week they virtually stop in a different city and sell that city’s Top Spotted List free of tax, duty, or shipping.

Whether you spot, fancy, or ruffl, I encourage you to get your loved ones on board as well. Yes, these sites are remaking window shopping, social curation, and e-commerce, but they might serve an even more useful purpose: year-round Christmas and birthday lists.

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