The “Right Time” Web and Social Commerce

August 21, 2010 by George Eberstadt

I gave this presentation at the MIT Enterprise Forum of NY a year and a half ago.  The NY Times Bits blog piece today on comments by Venrock’s Brian Ascher about the “Right Time Web” made me dust it off.  I tidied it up a bit (but not much).  My predictions about the imminent arrival of the “Trusted Reference” model in the e-commerce world were at least a year too soon – I left those unchanged.  (Brian’s colleague David Pakman also blogged about this in the spring.)

Business Week on the merging of social and shopping

October 20, 2009 by George Eberstadt

Business Week just published a piece on the potential for Facebook in online shopping.  They focus on the role of Facebook Connect in enabling shoppers to post questions to their Facebook network before making a purchase.

It makes sense that this is the primary way Facebook Connect has been used so far in online shopping, since it’s the easiest to implement.  But it’s just scratching the surface.  The real potential is in bringing the social network to the shopping site (not the other way around).

For one thing, many people are hesitant to blast questions that they know are only relevant to a small portion of their network out to everyone.  No one wants to be a spammer.

Also, most shoppers don’t think of Facebook as the place to go when researching a purchase.  The primary research destinations are merchant sites and content sites that address the product category.

Combine those two considerations and what you get is a requirement for a system that runs on the merchant (or content) site and tells a shopper which particular people can help them with their purchase decision, so only relevant people receive the shopper’s questions.

If you sell online and this makes sense to you, check out the way TurnTo’s merchant partners are using the TurnTo system to achieve exactly this.

We’ve just released a major upgrade to the TurnTo Social Shopping Widget

August 18, 2009 by George Eberstadt

The enhancements in this release improve both the user experience and the value for sites that use the system. Here’s a summary:

The widget now shows basic social shopping content to all users without requiring any sign-up:

  • Items recently recommended by other shoppers
  • Popular items
  • The number of neighbors who also shop at the store and the items those neighbors have purchased (based on zip code matches)

Users can now import their friends list without ever leaving the widget and immediately see how many of their friends are also customers of the store and what those friends bought. All the information is anonymous, but shoppers can request the store to send a connect invitation on their behalf to those friends. This new approach has a number of benefits:

  • Shoppers see more first-degree friend reference information
  • Shoppers have a way to connect to friends who have not yet opted in to the site’s “trusted reference system” while still preserving customers’ privacy
  • The sign-up flow for shoppers is cleaner and more intuitive

We’ve made a slew of visual and usability improvements.  Please go to one of our partner sites and have a look.

Sites currently using the TurnTo system will get this upgrade without any action required.

AuctionBytes podcast from the Internet Retailer Conference

June 19, 2009 by George Eberstadt

I had fun during the Internet Retailer Conference this week chatting with Ina Steiner, Editor of the AuctionBytes blog.  We covered a lot of topics in a short time.  She has posted the conversation as a podcast.  Enjoy.

A great case for the Trusted References model

May 8, 2009 by George Eberstadt

Tom Hespos was focussing on ad targetting in this blog post, but he’s accidentally made a powerful case for trusted references.

As much as we might not like to admit it, what we perceive our needs to be is heavily influenced by our friends’ needs. You might be perfectly happy, thinking all your needs are met, but if your five best friends suddenly purchase new cars, new Kindles, or a new style of clothing, it’s likely that you’ll consider buying these new things yourself. To paraphrase George Carlin, rest his soul, coveting other people’s stuff is what keeps the economy going.

The influence our friends have over our purchasing habits isn’t automatic. Of course, we have to know about our friends’ purchasing habits. Once we know Fred bought a new Honda Accord, we have to go through a consideration process of our own. Getting to that consideration in the mind of the consumer is the classic challenge for most marketers.

TurnTo presentation at OnMedia – Part 2

February 4, 2009 by George Eberstadt

Here’s our second presentation from day 2 at the OnMedia conference.  This one is a straight-up product demo and company backgrounder without the “theory” from yesterday.  The TurnTo part runs from min. 36-46.  (As with yesterday’s, we’ll swap in the individual video once we get it from the conference.)

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)

4 More Partner Sites Are Live

November 5, 2008 by George Eberstadt

Four new partner sites have gone live with TurnTo in the last couple weeks.  All of these discovered us following our launch announcement in September, showing how quick and easy it is to go from zero to up-and-running with TurnTo.  It’s also exciting to see what a broad range of businesses have embraced the TurnTo approach to driving conversion through trusted references. Our new partners are:

Check them out to see TurnTo in action.  And pick something up from them while you are there!

Critical mass questions

September 9, 2008 by George Eberstadt

We get a lot of questions about whether TurnTo will work before we’ve achieved a “critical mass” of users.  We built the TurnTo model so massive scale is not a requirement for the system to deliver value to users or to our partner sites.  I thought I’d explain how that works:

  1. Sites that use TurnTo suggest to their customers that they join TurnTo.  This message is delivered on the order confirmation page, the confirmation e-mail, or in on-going marketing campaigns.  The pitch is basically: be there for your friends and they’ll be there for you.  The sites may offer incentives, as well.  Not all customers join, but enough do.
  2. When these customers join TurnTo, they import their friends’ e-mail addresses and authorize that their purchases be shared with those friends.  Most likely, many of the imported friends are not yet TurnTo members.  That’s OK – those friends won’t see any of the purchase information that has been shared with them until they join TurnTo.
  3. A visitor – someone who is not yet a TurnTo member – comes to the TurnTo partner site.  The TurnTo widget shows a message like “See if friends can advise you about shopping here.”  The visitor clicks, is brought to the TurnTo registration form, and signs up.  TurnTo compares the visitor’s e-mail addresses to those with which TurnTo members are sharing.  Immediately – before she has done any network building of her own – the visitor sees the information that her friends are sharing with her on that site.  Instant gratification.

The power of this model is that each TurnTo partner site can make TurnTo productive without needing a massive TurnTo user network.  Individual partner sites don’t care about the size of the overall TurnTo network, they only care about whether their customers are TurnTo members.  And visitors to those sites don’t care about the size of the overall network either.  They only care if friends who shop on the particular site they are visiting are TurnTo members.

Of course, if you don’t shop at any of the TurnTo partner sites, then TurnTo won’t do anything for you.  But if you do visit a TurnTo partner site and have friends who shop there, there’s a good chance you’ll see these “trusted references” within a month or two of those sites installing the TurnTo system.