Since its birth, the Internet had been the greatest pioneer in bringing people from around the globe together, and once again, it created a new virtual class in society, the “social shoppers.”
As defined in Wikipedia, social shopping is a shopping method that incorporates both e-commerce and traditional shopping. In social shopping, consumers or even window shoppers can shop within a social network, complete with user or store profiles, and products and their prices.
Social shopping is still a small portion of the whole Internet traffic, according to Hitwise, a research firm that tallies online competitiveness. However, despite starting with only less than 1 per cent of all U.S. website visits, social shopping exploded in 2007, increasing their shopping activities eightfold, along with their Internet traffic share.
A great number of social shopping addicts login at least daily to check on products people might have been dying to buy or to discover rare finds within their social network. Such kind of members seemingly looks for self-expressing products they are willing to pay for.
As distinguished from “solo hunting” by analyst Ray Valdes of Gartner Inc. (a leading information technology research company, by the way), social shopping can be treated as “social gathering.” When you go solo, one would just open a website, search for a product, click on purchase, then leave the website. On the other hand, social shopping drives people to buy things that they might not actually want to purchase. In cases like this, social shoppers buy things out of the wisdom of crowds, which we will discuss next.
The Wisdom of Crowds
What makes social shopping interesting is that users can shop with other users that they don’t even know. Further, some of these sites have certain features, like building an online store or creating your own groups within the social networking website, to aid in shopping. And lastly, users within a social shopping network can communicate and sum up findings on different products, prices, and deals, which utilizes wisdom of crowds. A detailed discussion can be found, again, in Wikipedia, but it is strictly general in scope. On the next few paragraphs, we discuss it in a more social-shopping-related way.
A book written by American journalist James Surowiecki, “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations” discusses group thinking and information exchange resulting in better decisions that those thought of by just an individual. The lengthily titled book also presents a few criteria that further separate the wise crowds from the irrational ones (such us mobs and ignorant investors). I will present them in relation with social shopping.
1. Diversity of Opinion – Individuals in a social shopping network should know private information on prices and rare product finds.
2. Independence – Shopping information should not be determined by the opinion of the rest of the group. In social shopping, this means that one should also be able to search find products and other shopping deals on his own, and avoid looking at certain sites just because majority of the group does.
3. Decentralization – Social shoppers should simply be able to draw their own information from knowledge available via the Internet.
4. Aggregation – Private judgements, findings, and deals must be shared withn a trusted network or groups of co-social shoppers for the network or group to weave a common decision.
Online shoppers can easily display such characteristics mentioned above, seemingly because those four are innate of them. Now that we know what makes a social shopper, let’s visit one social shopping website.
“Shopping is more fun with friends”
Kaboodle is a social shopping website that clearly states in their home page that (social) shopping is more fun with friends. And by friends, Kaboodle means almost anybody around its online social network.
In Kaboodle, hundreds of people shop together, looking for their desired products and, at the same time, finding amazing products and deals that they don’t normally see in other places. Such kind of shopping determination plus the element of surprise here and there makes it worthwhile to visit social shopping networks.
The thrill of online shopping, not to mention the money that a social shopping network can generate, captured the attention of Hearst Corporation, the publisher who bought Kaboodle in an undisclosed agreement. Kaboodle, in the growing market of the fusion of e-commerce and traditional shopping, seemingly tied up with Hearst’s print material. “(Social shopping is) almost like browsing through 10, 20, 30 different catalogs,” said Kaboodle founder and CEO Manish Chandra. “In a way, Kaboodle is a like a suite of shopping magazines edited by the people.”
What differentiates Kaboodle and its likes from the websites meant for “solo hunting” is just that. Everywhere on the Internet, you can see sites that sport product recommendations, prices, and some descriptions. However, the power and control over products still remained in the suppliers. Kaboodle, on the other hand, shifts that power and control to the consumers, who, interestingly, can become suppliers, reviewers, dealers, and even middlemen themselves, depending on the transaction.
According to Deloitte & Touche USA LLP’s vice chairman and lead consumer products consultant Pat Conroy, “We have never seen, in the past few decades, the shift in power to consumers that we’re seeing now.”
What users like in Kaboodle (and probably in any other kind of social shopping websites around) is not the product but the quest in buying one. Users seem to enjoy sharing discoveries, reviewing products, and making or breaking deals.
Like any social shopping websites, Kaboodle features user’s recommendations and discovery for other shoppers. In addition to that, Kaboodle deemed that trust in an active user is an aspect to consider when looking for other shoppers to share ideas with, so the website highlights recently active shoppers, as well as creation of your own groups within the network. Furthermore, it has polls for a voting-aided decision making, compatibility tests for searching for a product that you’ll like, and discounts that can help you widen your fence while buying at a lower price.
Chandra admits that markets do go by unnoticed, and as such, maintaining the balance in a social shopping website is a key factor for it to sustain its hold on Internet traffic. With the consumer having the power of decision, one cannot really predict how far Kaboodle can reach. But apart from the statistical market that Kaboodle seems to take a hold of, still, social shoppers visit the website for the fun of it.
Other Shops to Visit
Other than Kaboodle, there are also other social shopping websites you can visit. I can only name a few here, as they do have striking features that others (probably) don’t.
StyleHive is the website for the globally stylish, as the name suggest. It allows its members to bookmark products, post blog entries, and interact in a forum.
ThisNext, on the other hand, is a rather complete social shopping network, their audience could be anybody anywhere. And you can also track them, too. One of the interesting features of ThisNext is its activity map, which shows social shopping activities around the globe. Imagine Wikimapia or Google Earth, but has social shopping transactions instead of landmarks!
Lastly, try out Zlio, one of the social shopping pioneers. Zlio allows you to build your own virtual store, and keeps track on its members’ activities as a gauge of trust within its social shopping community.
So what are you waiting for? Start your social shopping today!