Social Shopping

With the start of the holiday shopping season, there’s been a lot of buzz about Social Shopping lately.  But what exactly is Social Shopping and how will it impact us?  By definition, Social Shopping is a method of e-commerce where shoppers’ friends become involved in the experience and add a level of interaction that makes it feel like a shared and social experience.

By some estimates e-commerce is expected to reach $200 billion this year but it still hasn’t become fully entrenched with consumers in the social networking space.  Several sites like Facebook’s Beacon have tried and failed.

The popularity of Facebook-commerce (F-commerce) is growing but remains difficult for retailers.  A few large brands like Pampers have opened online storefronts within Facebook but back-end integration remains too expensive for most retailers.  It’s also not clear how willing shoppers are to open their wallets on a social network, and needless to say, it could be a tough sell if there is no discernable advantage to consumers for buying through Facebook versus more traditional e-commerce sites.

But, the online space is still changing.  A recent partnership between Facebook and E-Bay hopes to move a step closer to integrate the shopping experience. Facebook users will be able to “want” items they find during online shopping and will also be able to “love”, “own”, or “review” products.  At the same time a myriad of other start ups trying to marry shopping with social continue to appear.

In the meantime Facebook, Twitter and even Four-Square continue to play an important role as a communication medium driving consumers to a retailers own e-commerce site.  Big retailers including Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Best Buy publicized their Black Friday deals early to their Facebook fans while J.C. Penney used Foursquare in its Black Friday push, pledging to donate $25 to the Salvation Army each time someone “checked in” to its stores Friday.  And, both Target and AT&T used Twitter to promote their holiday sales.  All indicators show this is a long-term trend that’s here to stay.

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