A couple of years back there was a wave of social shopping startups (e.g. Kaboodle, Crowdstorm) looking to combine reviews and recommendations with friend lists to help people shop more smartly. Unfortunately none of them got too far – but the idea is back, now called social commerce, and maybe this time it will stick.
There is a post up today on Practical Ecommerce which gives a good primer. First a definition:
helping people connect where they buy, and buy where they connect
Thinking this through it become obvious that you either help people at or around the point of purchase (i.e. at the ecommerce sites ‘where they buy’) or you stimulate conversation about commerce where people are already communicating (i.e. on the social networks ‘where they connect’). The first generation social shopping sites sought to be destination sites in their own right, which is maybe why they struggled.
In this vision of the world the social commerce startup opportunity is providing tools to ecommerce sites for reviews, links to social networks which bring intelligence from friends or friends of friends, and intelligence from people I don’t know who are ‘like me’ or experts.
Tools like these could provide a lot of additional comfort to online shoppers as they make their buying decisions and thereby increase conversions.
So far this market is at a very early stage and speaking for myself at least I don’t see much connecting where I buy. I’m a big user of reviews on Amazon, and the ‘X people found this review useful’ intelligence is very helpful, but they could go a lot further e.g. with links through to my Facebook social graph or by mining the data they have about me (and can get from third parties like Facebook) to help inform my purchase decisions. This stuff doesn’t have to be complicated either, a brief pointer that says XYZ people in your extended network have viewed or bought this item would help a lot.
Thanks to @fabiodebe for the pointer to this article.