Posted by
Rachael Taylor
April 14th, 2009

Online Marketing: Shopping with friends… on the internet!

by Rachael Taylor

5301476-740x492There’s nothing new about spending Saturday afternoon in town with your girlfriends, or dragging your reluctant partner around the clothes shops, but with the advent of web 2.0 and its associated online marketing technologies – are these favourite pastimes just that – a thing of the past? 

OK, so we’ve been ordering online for sometime now, content with digital versions of catalogues and directories, flicking through page turning technology and zooming in on products to work out just how they would fit us / suit us.  And then sending them back when we are disappointed with the physical nature of them.  Some forward thinking home shopping organisations such as Lands End in the early part of the century, even started to use technologies such as the Virtual Model TM to enhance the online ‘changing room’ experience.

The power of user generated content

Amazon were one of the earliest online shopping sites to utlilise User Generated Content to give potential buyers the ‘real’ story, and this has now been adapted by lots of online retailers such as Next.  Plus there are thousands of review sites with retailer links to give the consumer a rounded and subjective experience when deciding on any purchase, and this reader review culture is not simply the remit of that major electrical purchase, you can now get a good understanding of the quality of a pack of 3 t-shirts.

When Facebook became the best thing since sliced bread in early 2007, retailers were quick to realise the potential audience on social network sites and made huge mistakes with run of site advertising which failed to recognise the importance of socially connecting with their customers.  The most successful clothes retailers were originally Top Shop whose MySpace page quickly delivered 5% of site visitors to topshop.co.uk, double the traffic it received from MSN and Yahoo searches combined!  The success was attributed to the content of the page which offered ‘fans’ and ‘friends’ discounts, previews and forums to feedback, connect with other likeminded shoppers and become part of their dialogue.  Top Shop also have one of the most successful applications on Facebook, their Daily Fashion Fix has 2,390 active monthly users and over 5,000 fans.

Social Shopping – a natural ‘next step’

‘Social Shopping’ was the next natural step – a mashup of social networks, review sites and ecommerce functionality.  Providing an online shopping mall for you to visit alone and invite friends on the journey by asking them to rate the shoes you are looking at or decide between two patterns of wallpaper.  Fashion sites such as osoyou.com and stylehive used a mixture of fashion mavens, retailers and designers to bring a magazine experience to the ecommerce environment.  All sites still rely on the ‘profiles’ and ‘following’ aspects of web 2.0 that we have become used to over the past few years but many simply remain as aggregators, with the consumer’s end purchase taking them back to the retailer

You can then either share your ideas with friends, buy all the items in one click or visit each store individually

You can then either share your ideas with friends, buy all the items in one click or visit each store individually

website.  What we really need is the Trafford Centre of social shopping!  A one stop shop with sharing functionality, aggregated retailers with one basket and one payment.    Interior design site MyDeco is perhaps the best example of this at the moment.  It’s Buy-The-Look function scrolls through each product in the room set – allowing the user to select more expensive or cheaper options for everything from sofa to wall stickers.  When you’ve finished adjusting your requirements to your budget, you simply go to the checkout and buy everything from multiple retailers.And it’s not just about fashion, bookworms can now gather at BookRabbit.com.  This new site uses technology similar to number plate recognition software to allow users to take pics of their bookcase, upload to site and then meet with other members who share their tastes.  The service is also extended to independent book stores where members can search to see what is in store.

The power of crowd clout

Social shopping also brought about crowd clout, where consumers grouped together to bring down prices for a variety of high ticket items.  It remains to be seen if this will become big, although it has been around for a couple of years now and is yet to reach the mainstream.  Crowd clout has also been reinvented to force consumers to boycott various establishments and in May 08, Carrotmob was created as a reverse-boycott concept.  This encouraged consumers to rally around companies that are eco-friendly to provide an economic incentive to companies for making positive environmental changes.

Should the high street be worried?

But do all these new ways to shop and share really mean that the High St fashion stores can dispose of the row of chairs outside the changing rooms reserved for glum looking men (I generalise)?   US department store Bloomingdales has trialled technology which allows shoppers to share looks on the website from the physical store. By using interactive mirrors, the customers can ‘try on’ clothes without ever visiting the changing room. The images are projected on to the shopper and then sent to a website for friends to make comments. 

Sharing ideas on presents? A Kaboodler can collate info from many different websites not just on products, but on holidays, cars etc.

A Kaboodler can collate info from many different websites not just on products, but on holidays, cars etc.

For me, social shopping is an easy way to share ideas.  Rather than writing a birthday list or shopping list, sites like Kaboodle make it easy to collate products from any website with the click of a new toolbar icon and share the list with friends (or strangers).  In the word of one ‘Kaboodler’  - Kaboodle is fast becoming my memory.

So the list writing is something that appeals to me, but the next step would be for me to click one button and buy the lot.  Just think how fantastic that would be, especially at Christmas!  

If you would like to find out more about social shopping, please call Red C on 0161 872 1361 or click here

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