Insight into social shopping – the next explosion in ecommerce
Real-time social shopping with your friends online is a growing area with huge potential for brands, offering a higher level of engagement than standard ecommerce, but also greater insight into consumer purchasing behaviour.
Social shopping co-browsers like Vans, Coast, United Cloud andShopwithyourfriends.com allow friends to share each others’ screens and discuss potential purchases in real-time. It is the closest thing to shopping offline – a great example of ‘inline’, the blurring of boundaries between on-and offline. It also has aspects of social gaming: reminiscent of tween-targeted Stardoll, it is fun and far more engaging the standard ecommerce.
I spoke to Wouter Brackel, COO of Dutch company Chatventure, creator of Shopwithyourfriends.com, the co-shopping fashion portal went live in January this year. Friends can discuss items together online as they would in-store, viewing each others’ mouse movements, dragging and dropping items together to create ‘lookbooks’ of outfits whilst chatting via Skype. The application was developed three years ago and has already worked with a range of European retailers, but it is only now that it has been launched as a stand-alone brand with a commission-based business model.
Brackel explained that although the application can be used for any sector, the biggest demand is for fashion. More than any other retail sector, this is the area where consumers consistently look to their friends for guidance and advice.
With a core target audience of 14 – 25 year old young women, Shopwithyourfriends mirrors and facilitates offline shopping behaviour, targeting the audience where they are already interacting online (e.g. Facebook). Brackel said average session times are 1 – 1 ½ hours, in which time friends view 100+ items.
Due to peer recommendations’ undeniable power to increase sales, real-time social shopping is a particularly relevant tool for marketers. Co-browsed social shopping offers brands new opportunities for discounts and competitions – ASOS has already been using Shopwithyourfriends as part of a competition mechanic where users upload ‘lookbooks’ & vote for the winner.
Perhaps more significantly still, real-time social shopping also offers brands insight into consumer buying behaviour.
Whilst in-store it is easy for brands track which items are selling, it is difficult to discern with certainty whether the purchased items were intended to go together or were unrelated (e.g. gifts). ‘Lookbooks’ allow brands to see explicitly which items consumers are matching together, revealing consumer intention.
Therefore, personalised recommendations can become more intelligent and tailored, and fashion brands can see which of their own items consumers are matching with those of rivals. This insight can highlight a gap in a collection where a brand isn’t meeting consumer demand, for example if consumers were consistently matching an item with those of competitors.
With the arrival of F-commerce, co-browsed social shopping is brought even closer to the ‘real-life’ shopping experience as chatter with friends, co-styling and transaction all take place in the same browser window. Co-browsing social shopping is convenient, fun, and an area of ecommerce that is set to explode.
- James Layfield (@Layfield), Managing Director of The Lounge Group