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Turning Celeb Obsession into E-Tail Dollars

Lindsay Lohan
AP
Lindsay Lohan

If you devour paparazzi pics and/or obsessively follow celebrities' every move online, perhaps you'd also like to dress like Hollywood's A-list. That's what image licensing startup, GumGum, is counting on. Soon you'll be able to click on an online photo and instantly buy Lindsay Lohan's outfit. The retail business is certainly suffering during this recession, but this unprecedented marketing and the potential for instant gratification seems like a sure thing to generate a mini retail bump.

Here's how it works: GumGum tracks images that reach 25 million people online each month. Now it's tagging the most popular celebrity photos and linking them to Shopzilla and Shopstyle. Ultimately, it'll put a "ShopThisLook" button by certain photos instead of ads.

This new model could be a win-win for next generation online retail. Websites that pay to post the images earn 30 percent of any cost-per-click revenues paid by the retailer. Retailers get a high response rate. Based on early testing, the cost per thousand customers is 90 cents (one percent of people click on the 'shop this look' icon, 29-percent clicking through to the actual item). And GumGum, of course, gets a piece of the revenues.

Yes, a lot of work goes into identifying and matching starlet-gear with clothes ordinary people can buy. But it is sure to pay off. What better advertising for clothes than seeing them on an artfully disheveled waif, looking like she spent hours with a stylist that morning? Soon I bet you'll be able to 'click to buy' pretty much anything you see, whether it's an outfit on PerezHilton.com or one of the glam dresses on Gossip Girl. In fact, the CW(TWX, CBS) is working on letting viewers buy the fashions from its shows. So, while GumGum isnt alone in the space, it has potential to take the concept wide, and become a giant.

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