Social Shopping 101: A Practitioner's Primer


Over at GigaomShinyOrb co-founder Elizabeth Yin has posted a useful primer on social shopping; “e-commerce sites that facilitate interaction among customers as part of a shopping experience“.

It’s jargon free, succinct and practical.

Elizabeth breaks down social shopping into three buckets

  • Group shopping sites – online equivalent to Costco such as Groupon, LivingSocial and BuyWithMe
  • Shopping communities – sites such as Kaboodle, Stylefeeder, and Polyvore that connect shoppers with similar tastes
  • Recommendation engines – such as Amazon reviews, Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews, online equivalent to asking a fellow customer in store for a recommendation

In Elizabeth’s view, social shopping is hot right now because

  1. So many people have an online identity
  2. Social graph APIs and tools have become available and easy to use

Elizabeth identifies a number of business opportunities in social shopping

  • For group-buy, focusing on niche verticals (travel, wedding photography, ultra-local),
  • For shopping communities, to break out of fashion with sites focused on other categories (travel and (adverture) sports), using marketplace technology (such as listia), and connecting real friends (using Facebook social plugins) such as on Elizabeth’s bridal site ShinyOrb).  Wherever there is a club in real life, there is an opportunity for a shopping community (nice).
  • For recommendation engines, friendcasting (our term) –  reviews from friends, via Facebook, Blippy, Swipely etc, rather than reviews from strangers

We really like Elizabeth’s succinct, practical and pithy definition and categorization of social shopping – in our view the definition is far better than both the existing Wikipedia definition – doing shopping in social networks like MySpace (paraphrased), or indeed our definition – a subset of social commerce in which people share the act of online shopping together.

And Elizabeth’s categorization of social shopping is inclusive enough to hold most of what is taken to be not only social shopping but social commerce too. Whilst there may be more ways of using of social media to assist in the buying and selling of products and services than than the facilitation of interaction among shoppers (for example using social media to decide whether to go shopping or what to buy with non-shoppers – it does cover most of the bases.  If you like Occam’s razor – you’ve gotta love Elizabeth’s primer.

  • Group Shopping <- ‘Social Shopping’
  • Shopping Communities <- ‘Forums & Communities’
  • Recommendation Engines <- Ratings & Reviews, Referrals & Recommendations, Social Media Optimisation (and Social Ads and Apps?)

The one thing we’d suggest tweaking is the exclusive focus on e-commerce sites, we’d be keen to include all digital tools that facilitate interaction among customers as part of a shopping experience – whether online or offline, not just e-commerce sites (i.e. mobile tools for in-store retail).

From this perspective, social commerce and social shopping can be seen as, if not synonyms, then two sides of the same coin – one from the shopper perspective and the other from the vendor perspective.

  • Social Shopping – facilitating [digital] interaction among customers as part of a shopping experience (in order to improve the shopping experience)
  • Social Commerce – facilitating [digital] interaction among customers as part of a shopping experience (in order to improve sales effectiveness)

This is of course very different from Stephen & Toubia‘s differentiation (in the JMR) of social commerce as online networks of vendors and social shopping as online networks of shoppers, but perhaps more in adequation with how the term is used today.  Thoughts?

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5 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sylvio Teubert, observer. observer said: #sosho Blogs! Social Shopping 101: A Practioner's Primer | Social Commerce Today http://dld.bz/mmzG […]

  2. July 13, 2010
    Reply

    Thanks for the kind words, Paul. (Even more flattering since I read your blog frequently!)

    Great feedback on my article. You're absolutely right — I didn't discuss any tools that facilitate the social shopping process. In particular, there are a number of great up-and-coming mobile apps that I think bridge the mall-shopping experience with the online world well…

    Btw, I love the "friendcasting" term.

  3. July 13, 2010
    Reply

    Nice post Paul. I like the part "For shopping communities, to break out of fashion with sites focused on other categories (travel and (adverture) sports), using marketplace technology (such as listia), and connecting real friends (using Facebook social plugins) such as on Elizabeth’s bridal site ShinyOrb). Wherever there is a club in real life, there is an opportunity for a shopping community (nice)."

    Giantnerd shopping community focuses on the Outdoor Gear niche. Nice to see what we are doing is gaining traction.

    Giantnerd® isn't like other shopping sites. In fact, Giantnerd® has almost nothing to do with us. Rather, everything here is a product of you—the community—from products you see on the site, all the way down to our company policy. Giantnerd® is a social platform totally dependent on your presence; your opinions; your wants and needs. So it’s fitting that Giantnerd® should be the only source you’ll ever need for researching, shopping, and eventually copping, gear for every outdoor activity you geek out to.

  4. July 14, 2010
    Reply

    Great post. Your focus on the merchant perspective is an important insight.

    Zavee, a social shopping platform we are launching in South Florida, positions social shopping as a marketing tool for local merchants, not just as a way to improve the shopping experience for consumers. We provide social tools that facilitate the conversation between shopper and merchant along with a loyalty/rewards program that makes price promotion much more rational, configurable and trackable. And since Zavee is a coalition platform all of the merchants benefit from increased reach.

    Your "two sides of the same coin" comment is spot on. Zavee shoppers benefit from the experience and opinions of other shoppers, enhanced communication with merchants and cash back rewards that help level the playing field with large chains and big-box retailers. Zavee also has a novel social giving feature that lets shoppers direct a portion of Zavee's revenues to local causes they select.

  5. Kaniz Jeba
    April 6, 2013
    Reply

    Hi,
    I totally agree that every new habit begins with mental shifts
    PriceSteps is a community based marketplace to share deals and save money. See how the prices fall as other people join the promotion!
    If you want to know more about it then please Follow the link http://www.pricesteps.com

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