* Wal-Mart unveils Shopycat gift buying app
* Retailer taps Facebook data to recommend gifts
By Alistair Barr
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc , the world’s largest retailer, unveiled a new social-networking application late on Wednesday, in a move to latch onto one of the hottest trends in e-commerce.
WalMart launched Shopycat, which uses Facebook data to recommend gifts to consumers, on the company’s Facebook page.
This is one of the first products to roll out of @Walmartlabs, a unit of the company based just south of San Francisco that is developing social-networking and mobile technologies for the retailer.
“Shopycat is the first step in what we think is a very strategic area for the industry as a whole,” said Venky Harinarayan, senior vice president of WalMart Global eCommerce and co-founder of @WalmartLabs.
The unit focused on gift giving first because it’s a tricky process that is inherently social, he added.
Shopycat uses data from Facebook pages to estimate a person’s top 10 friends. It then recommends suitable gifts for those friends, based on their interests, again based on information shared via Facebook.
Consumers can also search for a topic or theme, and Shopycat will show which Facebook friends are interested in those things, along with related gifts.
Wal-Mart isn’t the only retail company to use Facebook to promote gift buying.
EBay Inc , operator of the world’s largest online marketplace, launched Group Gifts in early November. The service connects eBay shoppers with Facebook friends to collectively purchase presents.