What if - The customer as a self made influencer

This article started as a bunch of (wishful) thoughts I had since the early begins of the 00's. Yes, I know — that seems like an age ago — but in a way some idea's, wishes or visions still can be relevant when they stil not exist or being created after such a while.

I'm not talking about that countless 3D chatrooms or even Second Life we hd in the 90'ies. So what I want to talk about? Let's call it very popular "The customer as a (virtual) influencer", mainly in the context of online shopping.

What do these two definitions of online persona's have in common? Well, the fact both relate to a certain image or emotion that's been created by brands, models, culture or style they (want to) relate too.

In this article I would like to play with they idea ("What if") when a customer becomes the influencer, not literally — but mentally or emotionally — the customer can identify him or herself with an influencer — visually speaking. And when we talk about 'online' we can even speak about virtually e.g. identification through an image on a display or screen.

Which isn't that strange as 'stars' and models are being followed / worshipped on a TV since a long time. The only difference is that the displays (of devices) are a fraction the size of a TV but on the other hand more close as they appear on anyones device right in their own hands!

So what can we do with that in relation with (maybe some old ideas and…) the new technical possibilities? What I'm targeting at is the fact that around the end of the 90's great ideas were spreading about a personal avatars which would inhabit the digital world in a cyberspace world, something I was personally very fascinated by — and was even the subject of my academic graduation project — which I won't bother you about.

But the idea 'to have a virtual and moreover realistic representation of yourself' is these days no science fiction anymore but (because of the technological development) a real option to use — and in our case, a great addition to the shopping experience.

That 'virtual representation' is with the powerful multi-media devices a no-brainer – our real self is when the camera is turned on – that avatar in cyberspace! Facial, shape and motion detection are powerful features which are around from some years now and in my opinion not being applied yet in the best way. A visitor can identify him, herself or their environment (with a some virtual help) with their idol or ideal view on the particular goal they have with their online (shopping) experience.

Not only by fitting products but also by customising them to their own needs. Good examples are online shops like Eyerim 1, Nike 2 but also the Ikea app 3 which lets you virtually 'try' products without too much hassle with trying furniture in your own home.

One of the reasons it's still not as big (as it could have been) is in my opinion privacy and especially the awareness that rises when a someone has to 'share' personal data in what form soever. Because a 'virtual you' – as it can be called has some mayor downsides related to privacy in some way.

Anyone with some basic knowledge will tell you there is already a virtual profile of you in many ways – think of the data Google, Facebook and other big tech companies collect – to make their marketing business work and provide services to target certain user groups and personas if you pay for it in the form of campaigns and advertisements. It is – and definitely will not be the last time big multinationals corrupt in some way really cool ideas on a deep level, in this case – trust.

But let's say people will consent or trust a particular service or website, or are not even busy with the fact they will share their own photo, video or other data needed - then this 'virtual you' is a concept that can really bring AR shopping to a whole new level!

Besides the examples I mentioned earlier the technology for this even comes in reach of smaller companies who don't have the assets to develop for example a custom tool to try on clothing virtually. At the moment there are various tools for WooCommerce (a Wordpress shopping plugin) to create for example a 'fit' functionality for sunglasses or hats 4 – which actually work pretty neat and are relatively easy to implement.

Visitors can activate their webcam or selfy-cam and record their face or body directly into the website - and in realtime the product is being applied as sort of 'instagram filter'. What a way of trying some sunglasses, a hat or even a shirt!

Will 2021 be the year people don't need any influencers anymore but can identify themselves with a brand or product the same as a model does? And if so, what will it do with the conversion and purchases? Time will tell.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Fit sunglasses https://www.eyerim.nl/glasses/virtual-try-on/ ↩︎
  2. Customise Shoes https://www.nike.com/w/nike-by-you-lifestyle-shoes-13jrmz6ealhzy7ok ↩︎
  3. AR products https://apps.apple.com/app/ikea-place/id1279244498 ↩︎
  4. WP WooCommerce AR Add-ons https://codecanyon.net/user/go-web/portfolio↩︎