Not so very long ago, it was a momentous event to log on to your favorite retailer’s website, say JCrew.com, and order that Confetti ruffle cami you eyed in the mall without ever having to leave the comfort of your bathrobe and living room. The convenience of it was mind-boggling!
Today, the virtual shopping experience has evolved past simple convenience and into the realm of social media. This evolution has taken the form of at least five completely different shopping animals and, while their names may sound similar, they each fill an important and unique niche in the social shopping sphere.
1. Group Shopping
What is it? Group Shopping websites offer retail discounts to subscribers who buy in large groups. Many offer a daily deal, for example 50% off a meal at a popular restaurant, and if enough people are willing to purchase the deal then the offer is available for 24 hours until the next daily deal is posted. This is beneficial to both the consumer and the retailer as the deep discounts typically draw in a large number of customers.
2. Shopping Communities
What is it? These sites provide a space for users to aggregate their collective shopping knowledge in one place. From prices to products to deals to trends, customers take the reins and share an ever-growing compendium of shopping know-how. These sites are just one example of how today’s consumer has more power than ever before.
3. Recommendation Engines
What is it? This branch of social shopping is literally evolving in front of our very eyes. While originally on asking for and receiving advice about products from strangers across the web, the new generation of recommendation engines are encouraging users to connect with their friends (often via other social networks like Facebook) and share recommendations with them.
4. Social Commerce
What is it? Social commerce sites like Etsy allow independent designers to showcase and sell their work to the world without actually having a brick-and-mortar storefront. It’s free to create an account at these sites, and users are able to peruse and buy from a myriad of talented designers. The designers themselves are able to network with each other and sell their wares for a very minimal fee.
5. Email newsletters
What is it? There are probably hundreds of locally based email newsletters that promote the newest stores, restaurants, products, and events in the users’ city or cities of choice. While they don’t allow direct shopping, they often give subscribers insider discounts and encourage them to venture out and check out the newest local hotspots.
Share with us your online shopping experiences and preferences. How have you wielded your power to influence social shopping?