Local social shopping – now online

March 5, 2009 by John Swords

Would you walk into a great looking store if there are only salespeople there but absolutely no other shoppers you can see? Ever seen people peek at others’ shopping carts while waiting in line at the supermarket? Ever seen them reach out and grab a few extra products they hadn’t thought about buying before? Would you feel comfortable parking the only car at the shopping mall’s parking lot?

My father told me that when I’m looking for a good restaurant, I should walk into one that’s full of people. This would be a good indication that the food is fresh and the service attentive. Life experience has taught me to apply this advice more broadly to shopping in general, whether I’m looking to buy food, electronics, apparel, or book travel – take a look and see if there are other buyers around. And if there are – walk in with comfort and trust. I think it’s basic human nature – we take our cues for buying and shopping from other people, real people, that live, work, and shop in our vicinity. Some may call this “the wisdom of crowds”, other would say it’s “keeping up with the Joneses”. Whichever the case, when we’re shopping, we’re drawn a lot more into stores full of people. Empty stores are unappealing. They make us uncomfortable, keep us guarded, can even make us a bit suspicious, and certainly tight-fisted with our wallets.

That’s in the real world. What about online?

Shopping online is a lonely activity. It’s you and your computer. No matter how sleek a retail site may be, you’re there alone. You can’t see your neighbors. You can’t tell if the shopping site had drawn other people from the street. You don’t know if anybody else from town has parked their car outside. As a result, you’re not as comfortable about buying there as you would be if the store were a brick and mortar store, full of real people that warm up the place and that you can see shopping around you. Think about how much money internet retail sites are leaving on the table everyday because their visitors are missing that sense of comfort and trust that comes from seeing other human beings, people from the same subdivision, people from their part of town, shopping around them.

Now imagine that you go shopping online, and at the retail site you’re visiting, you can see people from your own zip code shopping. These are not necessarily people you personally know. Much like in the real world, they could be strangers. But they have a lot in common with you – they live in your area. And now you can see that they shop here too. You might even be able to take a peek and see what they’re buying. What would this do to your level of comfort? How much more appealing would it make this online store? Would this not give you this “warm and fuzzy” feeling that you get when you walk into a store at the local mall and it’s full of buyers ? Would you not find yourself getting curious about additional products you weren’t even considering when you walked in, because you can see some neighbors buying them?

These are exactly the benefits that the TurnTo widget offers online retailers and their shoppers. It brings online these simple and highly intuitive elements of local social shopping that we’ve all been so used to in the real world. The business benefits of the crowded store travel well to the internet shopping site – your visitor is a lot more comfortable coming in, browsing, spending time, engaging with your brand and your products, getting product ideas by looking at other shoppers, proceeding to the cash register, and giving you their credit card to place an order. Parting with your money is a lot easier and seems safer and wiser in a busy store. Chances are your online store is quite busy. Now make this busyness visible.

If your target demographic is over 35, do you need a social shopping strategy?

February 19, 2009 by John Swords

Last year, ecommerce sites that sell to “grown ups” sometimes told us, “We don’t need a social shopping strategy – our customers don’t use social networks.”  That was last year.  The landscape is changing at an incredible pace, and customer profiles in 2009 are going to look quite different.  Take a look at this article about the growth rate in the over-55 Facebook population.

TurnTo presentation at OnMedia – Part 1

February 3, 2009 by George Eberstadt

Here’s the TurnTo presentation from the OnMedia conference today.  This talk focuses on the whole idea of “Trusted References”.  The TurnTo part goes from roughly minute 1 to minute 10.  (I’m hoping the conference will provide a version of this without the side-bar.  I’ll upgrade if we get one…)

Presentation from the Social Networking Conference

January 23, 2009 by George Eberstadt

I just got back from the Social Networking Conference in Miami.  Here’s the presentation I gave, titled “Ecommerce Meets Social Networks: A Different Approach to Driving Online Referrals”.  The usual caveats about slides-without-accompanying-commentary apply.

View more presentations or upload your own. (tags: trusted references)

New Feature: Rave

January 22, 2009 by George Eberstadt

We just rolled out Rave.  If you’ve had a particularly good experience with a product from a TurnTo network site – the sort of experience you’d normally tell your friends about – rave it.  Your TurnTo friends will see your rave in their TurnTo news feed, and you can also push it out to your Facebook friends.  (Coming soon: you’ll be able to push your raves out to other networks, Twitter, and the like…)  Other people can see your raves, too, but we don’t push it to them, and they don’t see your name as the author.

How come only “rave” and not “pan”?  The main idea behind rave is to make it easy for you to bring something to the attention of your friends that they might find valuable.  Getting warned off of a bad product is useful mainly if you were already considering it.  There’s no need to tell me not to get something I didn’t want anyway.  But getting alerted to something really special can spark a brand new idea.  Plus, we wanted to focus on the positive.  And a lot of our partner sites already have tools for collecting ratings and reviews, so we felt it was more important to focus on the communicating-with-friends aspect than on collecting scores and feedback.

We’d love to hear what you think.  Please drop us line.

Thought leaders predict social shopping among top trends for ’09

December 15, 2008 by George Eberstadt

Peter Kim asked a handful of thought leaders in the social media space to give their predictions for the top trends of ’09.  Here are a couple related to social commerce:

Charlene Li: Shopping Goes Social (also reprinted on her own blog)

After a devastating holiday season, retailers will eagerly seek a way to improve results other than driving demand with deeper discounts. One option they will investigate will be how to insert people and social connections into the buying process, illuminating and influencing for the first time the Black Hole Of Consideration. As they lick their wounds in the first half of 2009, retailers will watch from the sidelines as media companies implement open social technologies like Facebook Connect and the Open Social Platform. But as the holiday season launches early after Labor Day, shoppers will find options to see what friends are recommending, buying and rating integrated into the shopping experience.

Jeremiah Owyang: eCommerce Goes Social

The recession will force revenue results out of social technologies –marketing must prove its worth to actually changing the bottom line.  Although customer reviews are nothing new on popular eCommerce sites like eBay and Amazon, in most cases, consumers use the critiques from people they don’t know.  Now with connective technologies like Facebook Connect, Google FriendConnect, and OpenID, consumers will now be able to see reviews, experiences, and critiques from people they actually know and trust.  As a result, expect to see eCommerce widgets and applications appear in popular social networks, as well as when visiting existing eCommerce sites the ability to login with your Facebook or Google identity.  As an example, next time I’m shopping for a laptop, not only will I see reviews from editors and consumers, I will now know which one of my friends uses an Apple computer, and what they think of it.

What should online merchants do with Facebook Connect?

December 2, 2008 by George Eberstadt

The New York Times ran a piece today heralding the imminent arrival of Facebook Connect – significant as an indication of the huge expected impact of the feature.  My guess is that for brands and online merchants planning their social commerce strategy, the anticipation of Facebook Connect will be matched by an equal measure of head-scratching about how to make the best use of it.

Its predecessor, Beacon, had significant flaws.  But for merchants, it also had a particular beauty – clarity of purpose.  It did just one thing (sending “stories” to their customers’ Facebook pages so friends could see what those customers bought).  And it provided all the infrastructure needed to do that.  Just pop a bit of code here and there, and you were up and running.

Facebook Connect, on the other hand, is a tool kit which can be used in many possible ways.  In addition to posting stories back to Facebook, it offers the ability for shoppers to bring their Facebook friends with them to the merchant’s site.  Sounds exciting, but what does that really mean?  What features and applications should sites build around that capability?  And where does the technology to take advantage of this potential come from?

My belief is that the killer app for Facebook Connect for online commerce is going to be “trusted reference systems”.  If you sell online, and all-of-a-sudden you can know the friend-network of your shoppers, what is the most powerful use to which you can put that information on your site?  It is: to tell your shoppers what their friends have bought from you, while they are shopping.  Shoppers who see that friends buy from you are going to be more likely to do so, too.  They’ll get ideas from seeing what their friends have purchased, so they’ll buy more.  And they’ll be able to see who among their friends they can turn to for advice if they have questions, so their whole shopping experience will be improved.

We’re on the brink of a new phase in online commerce where brands and merchants of all sizes will be able to put applications driven by social graphs on their sites.  For those who take advantage of this opportunity, the potential to create value for their business is tremendous.  (Not to be coy, at TurnTo, we are excited to be the leading provider of turn-key trusted reference systems that make it a snap for sellers to add these social commerce features to their sites.  If you are wondering what Facebook Connect can mean to your business, we’d like to talk to you; please drop us a line.)