Chicago, 2010: Dan is looking to buy a allaboutshoppingtrends home theater system to complement the new LED TV he purchased. Dan doesn’t know much about home theater systems so he logs on to Bestbuy.com where he has setup his online “Media Closet” which tracks all the gadgets and electronic devices he currently owns. Dan is able to find 18 “Audio Gurus” who also have an expertise on the products that are currently in his media closet. These gurus have been voted as the experts by the online community so Dan thinks that he can trust their recommendations. Dan invites one of the experts to view his “Online Media Closet” – which shows the information about the Blu Ray player, LED TV, a Netflix streaming device and a WII console that he would like to connect to the home theater system. The expert makes recommendation for two high end home theater systems that are currently on sale. Dan purchases one of the home theater systems and the Audio Guru receives affiliate points from Bestbuy for his help in the consultative selling.
New York, 2010: It is 11:30pm and Sally is looking to buy a new dress for the upcoming Christmas party. She logs on to Looklet.com, picks up a dress and matching shoes and saves the new look in her profile. She gets prompted by Looklet if she would like to get an opinion from her friends. Looklet displays all her online Facebook friends via Facebook connect . Sally sees that her best friends Nancy and Tina are still online and invites them to give an opinion on the new look. They are able to chat and view the products in real time. Both Nancy and Tina love the new dress but aren’t too crazy about the new shoes. Sally is able to find other “Fashion Experts” on Looklet who have favorited the same dress – and she is able to find better shoes based upon recommendations from those experts. Welcome to a new phenomenon in online retailing – “Social Shopping”. This term has been used more and more in the past few months to describe the future of online shopping. Although the above two examples are not yet real but several pieces of these concepts are already in action at several online retailers. Given all this hype around social shopping, I thought it would be good to talk about some of the practical examples where online retailers can start thinking about implementing some of these concepts on their platforms.
The Progression of Social Web
If we think about the progression of social web, it has significantly evolved over last few years. It started out “Relationship based” where people could just connect with others and stay in touch. Then it evolved into an open medium where the social platforms took the role of an operating system allowing third party applications to enable significantly richer social interactions among people . Now, it has evolved even further where all interactions are context based (think Facebook News Feed) where users only see information and conversations in the context they are interested in. The next logical step in this evolution is to allow sharing of products and services within the social context so that users can turn to their friends and trusted experts for advice on buying products. For those who think social shopping is just a fad, consider this-What makes a great product recommendation? Is it the number of strangers who recommend something or is it the person who recommends it that matters most? In other words, if you are asked to chose between a book on Amazon that is rated 5 stars by 10 strangers and another book highly recommended by a close friend who has very similar tastes and background as you – which book are you more likely to buy? If the answer is latter, then you believe in the power of social shopping. The only thing needed is a platform which helps you listen to your trusted friend’s and follower’s recommendations in a structured format. Facebook Connect is the first step that would make these interactions possible in a meaningful way. Still not convinced? Let’s hear what our friends from Nielson say –
“Recommendations by personal acquaintances and opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising globally, according to the latest twice yearly Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey. The Nielsen survey, the largest of its kind, shows that nine in every ten Internet consumers worldwide (90 percent) trust recommendations from people they know, while seven in every ten (70 percent) trust consumer opinions posted online” OK – enough about general ideas and numbers. Let’s look at specific opportunities that are likely to shape up the social shopping landscape in the coming months and years: