Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Next Generation of Social Shopping

Social shopping is a concept which has been around for quite a while. Wikipedia defines Social shopping as follows: A method of e-commerce where shoppers' friends become involved in the shopping experience. Social shopping attempts use technology to mimic the social interactions found in physical malls and stores. In short, it is tapping the time trusted, long existing relationships between people to shop for products online. In this article, we analyze how Social shopping has evolved over the years and what are the pros and cons of each of the type of social shopping.

In the current fast paced generation, we rarely have time to relax. Gone are the days when people went to physical retail stores to buy a product along with their friends. As time went on, the potential benefits for time savings & reduced efforts compared with the traditional form of shopping tipped the scale in favor of social shopping. The main factors which influenced the online shopping are; product perceptions, shopping experience, customer service, and perceived consumer risk. Out of which, the prominent factor which stood out was the shopping experience which was generally enjoyable, but at the same time frustrating.

In the initial days of social shopping, the main source of information was the conversations which happened on the websites. The websites like Amazon, Ebay had the products along with the extensive list of information on the features of each of the products. The only sources of information are the reviews written on these websites. These websites had scores of reviews written on the products.

The problem was that most of the reviews written were anonymous with the reviews skewed towards a particular company. The reviews weren’t trustworthy.

Due to this drawback, a line of third party review websites emerged, where registered users gave reviews on the product. Websites such as ThisNext, Pronto, and Stylehive provided both social shopping and interaction on the same site. This kind of websites had high amount of credibility as the reviews were from the people who have bought the product and shared their experience. The drawbacks of these sites were that a consumer may get many reviews that may be contrary to each other. The ability to make a buying decision process will be further complicated by the numerous suggestions.

Social shopping thus evolved into the next state, namely friendship based social interaction. Websites such as ShopSocially tap the friendship network and share their reviews to provide recommendations to the people. The prominent benefit of this type of shopping is the high level of trustworthiness. Shop socially allows a user to invite their friends and share their reviews.

A consumer can not only obtain reviews from his friends but can take a informed decision after considering the pros and cons of each product helped out by his friends. This type of social shopping, though new shows a lot of promise in the future.

The leveraging of the social interactions in the online shopping is an interesting trend providing benefits both to the consumer and the reviewer. Going forward, social shopping is here to stay.


Yasha said...

Hi Prashant,

Great post about social shopping. The Facebook Open graph was definitely a game changer for the social shopping. At Giftiniti we do believe in crowdsourcing, social influence/information aggregation to create value for the consumers.

Prashant Sree said...

@Yasha: Hi Yasha, thanks for the comment. Giftiniti looks to be a cool place for leveraging social recommendation. Good one. ATB.

Wally said...

@Prashant: I think you are right, social shopping is here to stay. has been created to take the embarrassment and frustration out of knowing what to get and...when to get it. We're taking wishlist-ing to the next level by adding ability to remain situationally-aware of those special occasions. More features to come, so stay-tuned...and keep up the on-target posts!

Prashant Sree said...

@Wally: Nice concept Wally. Such sites does makes it more convenient for the consumers to enjoy online shopping.