Social shopping options allow customers to get opinions before purchasing It’s almost an involuntary “click” these days. You’re shopping for a product online and as you enter in your search parameters, you automatically choose the option “user reviews: four stars or higher.” Why not? You probably haven’t used all of the different brand options for what you want to buy, so it helps to find out what other users think about it, sans the sales language.
This is the basis for online social shopping: gauging other people’s opinion before deciding what to buy. And this method of presenting wares for sale is beneficial to both customers and merchants. For consumers, there is the benefit of learning from other peoples’ experiences, as well as receiving rewards for shopping with particular stores. For merchants, there is the ability to gather helpful information about the products they sell, the best places and methods to sell and the trends regarding who purchases what (and why).
The approaches to social shopping, however, are as varied as the different types of online shoppers, so small business owners should take some time to peruse the various options before picking the best social shopping apps or structures for their site.
Shop with Me
One of the most well-known social shopping options is the online coupon. Made famous by such sites as Groupon and LivingSocial, online coupons bring large numbers of shoppers together to purchase products at significant discounts. This works for promoting individual products and brick-and-mortar stores, but other shopping sites have taken the group mentality a step further with shopping communities. Typically geared toward a particular type of community such as travel enthusiasts, gear heads or discount divers, shopping communities allow like-minded consumers to talk about different products and share favorites, as well as shop.
Svpply, for example, is a community-driven site that features more than one million products that have been added solely by members. Site users can see what other like-minded shoppers like, and can either collect items that they would like to purchase or find out more about a product and purchase it by clicking through to the seller’s site. Items are added from across the web via a bookmarklet on members’ browser toolbars or by a button on online retail websites. The site currently represents more than 75,000 retailers, and encourages other online retailers to check with their site to see if any of their items are listed, and to start a store page so more of their shops’ items can be listed together. It’s free to create a shop page, but the site also offers an option for pushing items to users.
For those who prefer bargain hunting, there are also sites such as Listia. If your shop is thrift-driven or you enjoy the thrill of buying and reselling for a profit, the Listia structure is a way to gather like-minded deal hunters and collect your own products for resale. The idea is to get rid of items you don’t want and get items that you do. Each item listed is worth a certain number of “points,” which you can earn by listing items, inviting others to list items, and selling your own items for points. No money is exchanged, just product for points.
Apps that allow you to integrate these types of shopping aspects on your online retail site are available through app developers such as Demandware.
What Do You Think?
We all have someone in our lives that needs at least one or more people’s opinion before buying something. This is the basic idea behind the recommendation-type structure of social shopping. Even if you don’t ask others what they think, that “user review” option is always helpful when trying to decide between two similar items. For shop owners, recommendation shopping allows them to gather a significant amount of information about their products from consumers, as well as shopping trends. A “user review” option can be very helpful on a retail website, and ecommerce websites such as Shopify offer hundreds of options for social shopping apps through their customizable storefronts. Another benefit for shop owners using the recommendation-based structure is offering rewards to consumers who recommend their products to other consumers. Websites such as Lockerz utilize this format to reward their shoppers by allowing them to collect points that they can later redeem for coupons and gift certificates.
Going To the Market
For smaller shop owners or those with less quantities of any one product, marketplace-style social shopping allows online retailers to post their products with similar items from other retailers. Think of it like a farmers’ market. Shoppers can find your product while looking for a general item. For example, if you run a cottage business for homemade soap, sites such as Etsy would allow you to create a page and sell your soap by sharing images of your items under a particular category or by purchasing a spot in a daily promotion or on the homepage. Other marketplace site examples include Storenvy and Buzzmart.
Which of these sites have you tried out, either as a business owner or consumer? Are there any you prefer, or any that you wouldn’t recommend to a friend?
Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of custom pens and other promotional items such as custom USB drives, Christopher is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog