San Diegan Ana Bermudez has what she refers to as "a personal problem." And she's hoping her personal problem becomes your personal problem, too.
"I absolutely love shoes," says the 29- year-old San Diego native. As a young fashionista, Bermudez would often find herself falling down the Internet rabbit hole in search of fashion-forward styles like the $400-a-pair Manolo Blahniks that actress Sarah Jessica Parker famously wore as the trend-setting Carrie Bradshaw in the HBO series Sex and the City.
Bermudez, a financial advisor by training, says she became aware of the potential demand for a TV-inspired shopping app when she found out "there was a following of women like me, TV viewers who want instant gratification. They were researching this same information, creating blogs."
She knew what they needed was a way to make shopping as easy as channel grazing—and that's when TAGit was born. TAGit, a free app for the iPhone, enables TV viewers to purchase the shoes, clothing and accessories they see while watching their favorite television shows. Bermudez calls the app a "social wish list" for fashion-savvy fans of shows like Pretty Little Liars, The Big Bang Theory, and (of course) Sex and the City.
Last year, TAGit beat out about 120 other competitors to reach the finals of the San Diego Tech Coast Angels (TCA) Quick Pitch competition, where Bermudez took home the second-place award for Best Style and Presentation (fitting, eh?). She is now collaborating with The Eva Longoria Foundation and the ACCION micro-lending organization to create a larger audience for the app, and will launch a national promotional and marketing campaign this summer. At least one television network (she can't specify which one) is finalizing negotiations with Bermudez for corporate sponsorship and app distribution.
TAGit has now been downloaded about 10,000 times, mostly by females between the ages of 13 and 35. Bermudez has a team of interns who scour the Internet for popular items from six shows, and works with outside vendors to link to their merchandise, providing users with products that are actually worn by characters on the programs (like Sheldon Cooper's T-shirts on The Big Bang Theory) or in some cases, clothing "inspired by" the characters' wardrobes.
Sex and the City, for example, hasn't been on the air since 2004, but Bermudez says the show still has a huge following among fashionistas. "Some of the items from the show that we link to are considered vintage and higher-end, but we find equivalent versions for those not available as well as... more affordable alternatives."
While Bermudez is still a fan of Sex and the City, she is targeting more affordable products with TAGit.
"We have to be very aware of price points," she adds. "On average our items are about $25, although some are way over that. We're aware that our audience is the young, impulsive shopper who loves to watch TV, and I know when I was in high school if I asked for a pair of shoes that cost $125, my parents would have told me to go pound sand."
The app allows users to search by show, select items from a home stream, or see what items their friends have "tagged." Bermudez says the next iteration of the app—which will be expanded to the Android platform—will allow the user to snap a photo of a product from the TV screen and upload it to TAGit, which will search online for websites that sell it. Bermudez also hopes to secure one or more celebrity endorsements and eventually partner directly with TV networks and clothing designers.
She's quick to clarify, however, that she doesn't want to "compete with the Amazons of the world."
"They have their fortified business model, and they have perfected it," she adds. "I am the intermediary bringing the TV viewer in, connecting them to the product, merging the television and Internet into one. This way, we're not handling inventory or credit card information."
Although networks like HBO and ABC already have their own apps for buying consumer goods straight from TV, Bermudez counters that her business model offers a centralized place where a viewer can go, irrespective of the show they're watching.
"I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to have to have all those channels' apps available on my phone for only one or two shows that I watch," she says. "Besides, people are no longer watching as much live TV—they're watching on Netflix and Hulu. Men are watching a lot of on-demand from their Xboxes and Play Stations. TAGit doesn't care what you're watching TV on."
Sergio Gurrieri, a board member of the San Diego Tech Coast Angels, agrees.
"TAGit has clearly identified a growing need in the television commerce industry," says Gurrieri, who coached Bermudez for her TCA Quick Pitch presentation. "The company understands very well the audience it is targeting, and it has implemented technologies that seamlessly integrate content across TV shows, Internet and social media."
He also calls the app "extremely well-designed and very user-friendly."
Bermudez shrugs off the idea that commodifying the TV-watching experience could make some people a bit queasy.
"The funny thing is that has already happened," she says. "When you watch American Idol, what's the first thing you see? The Coke cans on the table in front of the judges. Target sponsored an episode of Modern Family where they supplied the clothing and the appliances because they know the demographic for that show and wanted to sponsor it. The Limited started selling Scandal-related items. The TV industry is already there. TAGit is looking to monetize that."