As in many countries around the world, a lot of girls in this country are obsessed with shopping and particularly brand shopping ( I hope I am not being too sexist here). People in Japan especially love Italian and French brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and so forth.
In March this year, Square Enix (a large videogame company known for the hit RPG series “Final Fantasy) and Xavel Media Group partnered to form “Stylewalker Inc.” (Japanese only). All companies are located in Tokyo and try to benefit from that Japanese “brand craziness”.
Stylewalker is also the name of the joint venture’s main product which is essentially a mashup of a social network, fashion portal and social commerce site.
The main target of Stylewalker are Japanese girls in their Twenties. Registration to the site is free. The company makes money in various ways I explain below.
The header is almost self-explanatory. It is as fixed as the left column (the links in that column lead to pages explaining the site).
Let me explain the links on the header from left to right:
II) Doll Store
After clicking “Shopping” you get to the online shop segment of the site which looks like this:
The column on the right features different categories like Outerware (625 items), One-pieces (1135 items) and so forth.
Actually the items are sold directly on Stylewalker. That means they do not use any affiliate links. There is a shopping cart and a check out. This is one way they generate revenue.
The “Doll Store” is quite a unique feature. On Stylewalker, users are able to create avatars which are called dolls. This sounds cuter and more appealing to Japanese women. Anyway, Square Enix programmed the avatar engine which must have been a piece of cake for them.
The dolls can be dressed in various ways and shown to other Stylewalker members for discussion. For dressing the avatars, members can use actual fashion items sold on the store so it becomes easier for them to decide what fits or not.
That is not free however.
On the right column, you can again choose items from various categories (just as in the Shopping section explained above). However, these are only virtual. The black dress on the left for example costs 320 stm. “stm” is the site’s virtual currency. 10 stm cost 100 Yen (87 US cent) – you get 1000 stm free for registering. So here is the second way Stylewalker makes money.
In the “Style” section pictured below), users can present their avatars. Again, the column on the right changes. Here, dolls are categorized into various styles like feminine (826 dolls), natural (1,112 dolls) and so forth.
The “Group” section pictured below features various, well, groups in which users can discuss topics like manga, fashion (of course) etc. There is even a group for “Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie” (only 1 member is registered here though!).
Blogging is huge in Japan. All kinds of people blog on all kinds of machines about all kinds of topics. Around the clock. Seriously, it is that big. So no wonder, there is a separate blog section on Stylewalker (see the pic below).
On the right column, you can see that diaries (3,481 postings) are most popular, followed by fashion.
All in all, I think the site is quite OK but nothing sensational. Design is too bland while usability is acceptable. To my knowledge, there is no site like this in the US or Europe. Especially the “doll idea” is unique for a site targeting grown ups. That feature reminds me of Mattel’s enormously popular Barbie web site.
At least, we can see a sensible business model here. Stylewalker can make money with its shop and selling of virtual items. Moreover, it makes sense for fashion companies to advertise on this site as it easy for them to pinpoint their target group.
And companies do advertise their brands, products, events etc. (as you can see on the right column on the starting page). So here we have the third way the site can generate revenue. Here is the list of brands featured on Stylewalker. The site only features products from these companies!
Also, Xavel is running the hugely popular fashion portals Girlswalker and Fashionwalker amongst others (both sites are Japanese only). It is not hard to predict they will attract at least a portion of Stylewalker users to those sites and vice versa.
Business-wise Stylewalker is developed well but as indicated above, it might not be flashy enough to attract Japanese girls. Will dressing up avatars really help them evaluating if a certain piece of clothing fits them? Why not go directly to a shop (OK, not everyone lives in Tokyo)?
Success so far is so-so. Square Enix and Xavel announced they expect 50,000 users to register by the end of this year. There are no official numbers but judging from the current activity on the site this might be hard to achieve.