Turn on the news or listen to the radio tonight. Pay attention to what is being said about business, listen for terms like e-commerce, e-marketing, or blog. Ten years ago, these terms didn’t even exist, but now they are used casually in everyday conversation. Listen closely and it becomes evident that the language of business is changing, which can only mean one thing—business is changing. How can a small business take advantage of these new trends and survive against the large conglomerates out there? Two words: social shopping.
How it Works
Combining the benefits of social networking and online shopping, social shopping is an emerging trend of websites that allow users to recommend and review their favorite products. Much of the focus is devoted to the newest, hottest and most exciting products on the market, making social shopping the word-of-mouth advertising for the Internet age.
What’s different about social shopping? The biggest benefit social shopping provides is confirming credibility of the product. When shopping online, it is hard to tell what you will really get, which explains why nearly 88 percent of people research before they buy (according to internetretailer.com). Social shopping networks bring the best products and consumer reviews to one place. Still not convinced about the value of reviews and recommendations? Take a look at the sales of any product with Oprah Winfrey’s name on it. Although she may not be commenting on the quality of your product, it is the same idea. If you were choosing between two similar products, and one was recommended by a peer, which would you choose?
Several companies have already benefited from social shopping. In its February 2007 issue, Inc. magazine cited Alex Kump, co-founder of Topo Ranch, an apparel manufacturer, as a great example of a social shopping success story. Faced with the challenge of finding a non-traditional method to reach his target market while also meeting a tight advertising budget, Kump turned to social shopping. He registered as a user of ThisNext.com and soon had posted his personal lists of product recommendations, including one of his own products: the Topo Ranch hooded sweatshirt. This unconventional method of advertising cost Kump nothing and resulted in an increase in daily web traffic as well as a 165 percent sales increase. On another social shopping website, Kaboodle.com, Tony Rekhi, owner of WineGlobe, experienced similar success. According to Inc., after posting on Kaboodle, Rekhi saw a 10-15 percent conversion rate, compared to the 1-3 percent return they were seeing from other methods of marketing.
So how can you, as a business owner, take advantage of the new social shopping phenomenon? Although the task may seem daunting
at first, creating a profile on one of these networks is really very simple—and free.ThisNext.com
: The website asks you to create a screen name and password and then follows that by asking for some personal information. You also have the option to personalize your profile with pictures and other information, such as your business logo. Once registered, you can start posting products and making recommendations.Kaboodle.com
: One unique feature of Kaboodle is the ability to place a ‘kaboodle’ button on your web browser’s toolbar so that if you are shopping on other sites and come across a product you’d like to recommend, all you have to do is click the button and the product is added to your profile.Stylehive.com
: As its name suggests, this site is geared more toward fashion. In terms of usability, the site is a little less straightforward than some of the others. However, once you navigate beyond the first page, things will become more clear. Stylehive.com allows you to search for a product and then provides options to refine your search. Despite any design issues of the site, Stylehive is a great resource for businesses in the fashion industry.Productwiki.com
: Collaboration is a big theme of this site and members are encouraged to comment about all products. A great feature of this site is that it allows you to read the positive and negative comments on each product. In addition, it also tracks the number of positive and negative comments, allowing the users to gauge the reliability of the various claims. However, this site is a bit harder to navigate than some of the others and doesn’t have as many users yet.Etsy.com
: This site is a social shopping network for handcrafted products. Registration on this site is quick and easy, and the products featured are very unique. In this context, user recommendations and comments are extremely useful—when people are looking to buy handmade items, they look to consumer feedback for vendor quality and reliability.
One quick word to the wise: make sure you look into any social shopping site before registering as a user to ensure that it’s not only credible, but also the right one for your business. Overall, though, social shopping provides a lucrative, free marketing tool for your business. Utilizing these networks is a smart and easy way to compete and will surely prove to be an asset in today’s tech-savvy, competitive environment.
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