The minds behind e-commerce caught on to these trends almost as fast as the web-savvy shop owners. Soon, websites such as The Fancy and Lockerz began to appear. Today, only a couple years after the launch of the first social sharing websites, online shoppers can not only browse the common man’s opinion on every product from aardvark art to zebra pants, they can share what they’ve bought, ask opinions on what they’re considering buying, and receive discounts for promoting their favorite purchases.
How can you utilize these sites to promote your online retail business? Start by getting to know how shoppers use the sites and take advantage of the ones you feel are best suited for your type of business.
Similar to Wikipedia in its contributor-supplied format, ProductWiki allows shoppers to search for products and read consumer reviews about them. Along with a summarized list of pros and cons for each product at the top of the page, users can scroll down and read a point-by-point list of pros and cons, view the products’ overall consumer score, read consumer reviews and watch video reviews. There’s even a price comparison section hosted by PriceGrabber and a list of online shops where the items are available for purchase, along with the product review points from those sites. Online merchants can use the site by adding the Product Wiki app to their websites, which allows consumers to add their products to the site for review.
Created by 31-year-old Joe Einhorn, The Fancy describes itself as being “part store, blog, magazine and wish list.” The site looks similar to Pinterest, where users can post items they find interesting with The Fancy’s “bookmarklet“, describe them, and categorize them. Users can follow other users that they like and if a user likes something, they can click through the image and purchase the item from the retail website. What makes the site unique is that users can also rank items, and each image features a real-time popularity score. For online retailers, this site allows for valuable product feedback and allows more users to find your business by posting items from your shop.
A social shopping site dedicated to fashion, ShopStyle allows users to create Stylebooks with their favorite outfits or individual clothing items. These looks can be shared on social media, blogs or via email, and shopped almost as easily. ShopStyle partners with thousands of fashion stores, showing shoppers a list of “related looks” when they click on something they like. For fashion shop owners, this is a great site to link with and possibly work with as a partner.
Lockerz is another take on the Pinterest model, with user-shared images of products that link back to the retailer’s website. The difference with Lockerz is that users receive PTZ, or points, for completing actions. Anything from connecting to social networks (250 PTZ) to logging in (2 PTZ) can earn points. The points can then be redeemed for discounts with various businesses, such as a coupon for $10 off a $60 order or 20% off of bedding. This format tends to encourage item promotion and return business, and allows promotion of items from across the web. As a web merchant, this is a great way to share products and receive feedback at the same time.
Woot is a fun-loving, often irreverent, product sales site with the unique approach of only selling one item in each of its item categories per day. The items are “the best deal Woot has to offer, at the lowest price you’ll find anywhere on the web,” according to the website. Users can discuss the items in a community forum, which is often as wacky as the product descriptions. Ads appear across the bottom of the page, which is one way that online retailers can interact with Woot’s quickly growing online community. Retailers can also see what items are selling for how much and gauge community opinion.
Shopify helps small businesses create online retail stores with predesigned templates and a huge selection of apps to help customize users’ experiences. In fact, Shopify currently features more than 150 apps. In October 2011, Shopify announced a budget of $1 million for new apps, and offers between $5,000 and $10,000 in advances for promising products from developers. With so many choices, shop owners are able to stay on top of shopping trends, from installing product review bars to promotional benefits such as “Tweet for Discount,” which allows shoppers to tweet about their purchase in exchange for 10% off the sales price.
Have you tried out any of these social shopping alternatives, either for your business or as a consumer? Which do you find useful? Are there any that you won’t use again?
Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in custom pens and other promotional items such as calendars, laptop bags and T-shirts. Christopher regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.