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Turning fashion into a video game

September 20, 2010: 3:00 AM ET

Which styles will fly off the shelves this season? Customers who play a new online fashion game are helping big retailers find out.


First Insight CEO Petro believes online games can boost retail sales.

With consumers still skittish, retailers need every edge they can get. Yes, when it comes to market research, walking the floor and setting up focus groups work -- to an extent. But Greg Petro, 46, a former Saks (SKS) executive, had a better idea. Why not use online games to quickly and easily find out what customers really want?

In 2007, Petro founded First Insight. The Pittsburgh firm invites a retailer's customers to play an online game (think the Facebook craze FarmVille). They set up a virtual clothing store, stocking and pricing merchandise that the retailer is actually considering putting on shelves. Not only is the game entertaining, but a coupon is usually offered as well. So far 50,000 fashion fans have played games for major retailers, which the company won't name.

First Insight delivers the feedback to the retailer in as little as two days. Says board member Richard Marcus, the Neiman Marcus scion who ran the luxury retailer for 13 years: "The potential for sales at full price and for reduced markdowns is terrific."

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