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So, what is social shopping?


One of the ways to describe what we’re doing at Appozite – and what I’ll be writing about here – is the term “social shopping.” Let’s discuss this term a little.

Social shopping as a term has been tossed around for a few years to describe new models of e-commerce that incorporate social networking tools. For example, in a 2006 New York Times article, shopping + social networking = social shopping. It’s like Facebook meets Amazon.

I don’t really love this term or what it implies. When I hear the phrase “social shopping,” I picture a group of people meeting at a mall to talk, try on some clothes, and mostly just hang out. The emphasis isn’t on shopping; it’s on socializing. That’s fine; it can be a great way to spend your time. But it doesn’t really describe what is actually happening online.

The two key elements of social shopping online are broadcasting preferences and receiving recommendations. Social shopping profiles work the same way as Facebook or MySpace profiles; a user creates as detailed a shopping profile as she wants, including stores and brands she likes, colors, styles and a number of other personal shopping preferences. She shares that profile with friends. Based on that profile, she then receives recommendations for products she might like. Friends can interact by discussing and sharing cool items they’ve found.

This is less “social shopping” than it is “social product discovery.” Product discovery is the boring corporate marketing term for the act of looking for something you want to buy. The discovery process is a big – and fun – part of shopping. We ask friends where they got their new clothes, spend countless hours browsing through catalogs, magazines and websites, and try on outfit after outfit in stores. Discovery is inherently social; we get ideas from all kinds of other people and places.

But shopping is more than discovery; it’s research, purchase and follow-up, too. Research is very social; you want to read reviews and compare prices before buying. Follow-up can also be social. You may take the time to share your shopping experience with others, by leaving your own reviews or suggestions to future shoppers.

The act of actually purchasing, however, is not very social. Once you’ve decided on an item to buy, you buy it. In fact, it’s the opposite of social. You want privacy and security. You don’t want a lot of people hanging around, looking over your shoulder as you hand your credit card to a cashier, online or offline.

So, given all this, I guess I’m okay with the term social shopping. At least until I can come up with something better. What do you think? Are there other terms you’ve heard or used to describe what I’m calling “social shopping”? I would love some feedback on this.

Jenn @ June 4, 2008


  1. kevinc June 4, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

    I agree, the term doesn’t apply to what’s out there right now.

    Say you’re looking for a pair of amazingly fashionable socks. You can go to a store with your friends, and enlist their help looking for socks. This is great for all parties because you get sock advice, and they get to give sock advice, and it makes shopping more fun (even if you enjoy it already).

    Online, you can’t quite do this yet. You can use your friends’ previous sock purchases and reviews, so you can say “We help each other shop online,” but at no point can you say “We are shopping together online,” because you are never really together. Sites like Amazon don’t let you ask someone “What do you think of these socks?”

    I would love to see that kind of thing on the web: “Bob is considering these argyle socks” … photo … click thumbs down, enter a comment, “What you need is longer pants, buddy!” Then recommend a pair. A few minutes later, “Bob bought this item you recommended.”

    At that point I would call it “social shopping”, because your peers can help you with more of the shopping process than Consumer Reports can. This is more powerful because they can give you individual attention.

  2. Julie Gomoll June 4, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

    One term I really like in the design world is “wayfinding.” Signage that helps you understand where you are or find where you need to go is part of a wayfinding system. So it covers signs such as Exit, Bathrooms This Way, and Ballroom A.

    The social part of the online shopping experiencing is the making and finding recommendations from trusted friends, right? So “tastefinding” comes to mind.

  3. somesh chaudhri April 30, 2011 @ 5:29 am

    It is a very beautiful place. I see at first time like this place.

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