The Rise of Social Shopping and User Reviews

Why I think customer reviews and social shopping are important. Social shopping is an interesting concept which divides opinion amongst web commentators.

Most are agreed that social shopping is a specific type of web service with its roots in the social explosion of Web 2.0.

In their purest form the best social shopping sites provide an open independent platform where users can add products, post a review or provide a product rating. The sites are service orientated, providing the tools for others to use and as such rely heavily on user generated content to set the agenda.

In essence the opportunity now exists for consumers to band together, discuss specific products and brands and provide an authentic alternative voice to the brand led marketing activity and conventional expert reviews we are all subjected to in other media.

By sharing product knowledge and experiences, creating useful content, an empowered community consensus can emerge, highlighting the gems and warning against the over hyped duds – the products which disappoint and fail to deliver.

This type of user generated content has a real value and satisfies an important element of the online shopping process – research, which accounts for 80% of consumer time when they are shopping online.

Social shopping sites combine social elements such as a social networking community features with aspects of shopping such as product reviews, ratings and deal hunting.

Some of the more agile social shopping sites are making use of the Twitter API and Facebook Connect to tap in to the online conversation, providing context for product related Tweets on Twitter and distribution of product opinion via Facebook.

Social shopping sites can be viewed as a value added evolution of the affiliate model – as they seek to monetize website content (the user generated product reviews and ratings) by sending traffic to third party merchant sites where they can purchase product.

My starting position is to agree with the mantra that “customer recommendation is the Holy Grail of Advertising”. We know this is true in the real world – if your friends and neighbours enthuse about their new car, lawnmower, laptop or digital camera – it will have weight, you take note.

The same holds online – reviews and recommendations are very powerful; especially those from people with status in a community, and those which are provided weeks and months after the purchase; only the scale and dynamics of relationships differ. The potential then of social shopping and what it offers us as consumers, product designers, specialist retailers and brands which really focus on and respond to their community is very exciting.

Some statistics and predictions from rantorave.

According to a global Nielsen survey of 26,486 Internet users in 47 markets, consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising among 78% of the study’s respondents. (Nielsen, “Word-of-Mouth the Most Powerful Selling Tool”).

83% of shoppers said online product evaluations and reviews influenced their purchasing decisions. (Opinion Research Corporation, an infoGROUP company, July 2008).

76% of US retailers said user-generated content would have a greater impact on their marketing goals in the near future. (SLI Systems/Zoomerang, November 2008).

56% of UK website owners say that user-generated content lifts conversion levels; 77% say it increases traffic; and 42% say it increases the average spend on site.(eConsultancy survey of 360 website owners across all sectors, November 2008).

By 2020, 84% of marketers agree that building customer trust will become marketing’s primary objective, and 82% agree that collaboration with customers will prevail over marketing. (1to1 Media survey April, 2008).

Top 10 Social shopping sites: (note I am only allowed to submit an article with 4 links)

  1. Kaboodle – http://www.kaboodle.com a great site, arguably market leader geared towards female consumers. Now owned by Hearst Digital Media.
  2. ThisNext – another strong site with an emphasis on female consumers, this site feels like a great window shopping experience with expert Maverns on tap
  3. Tribesmart – http://www.tribesmart.com this site is making use of twitter and Facebook connect. There are some great tools such as the personal list builder and community messaging features based on the ‘Tribes’ idea. Like Veedow, Wists and Crowdstorm it could appeal to both sexes and this is potentially where the gap in the market is as Kaboodle, OSOYOU and ThisNext seem to have marked out a claim on the younger female market.
  4. Veedow – a slightly confusing site, a neat idea, still yet to realize it’s full potential in my view
  5. Stylehive – feeling less like a pure play social shopping site these days, it has a strong emphasis on wannabe celebrity fashion/lifestyle writers who you follow – it is not as vibrant as twitter although you can see where they are going with it
  6. Jungle Raft – a new entrant, included as it is a new concept with a clear proposition in terms of pulling the best deals from Amazon
  7. Stylefeeder – offers to help users discover products based on their unique tastes. The looks a little off the pace and has some annoying and tacky pop up ads. All a bit old skool.
  8. Crowdstorm – the site is a Digg type site for products, it is based on buzz and an expert opinion network- although it does seem to have gone quiet in the last 12 months
  9. Shopstyle – feels like an ecommerce site with price discounts on display. Lacks obvious reviews or community features although the stylebooks feature is really nice enabling people to put looks together and share these – the ‘sale alert’ feature could be useful though and the site has hooked up with Elle magazine in the past.
  10. Wists – a trending site about what is new and what people plan on buying

There are many others, sites like Shopcorn and Naturalbornshoppers to name but two.

How Do Online Product Reviews Help Consumer Decision Making?

With the growth of online shopping on the internet, online product reviews sites are of great help in the decision making process for consumers. After all, they cannot gain physical access to a particular object one is considering to buy, such that they merely utilize the information provided for them by these sites to come up with a decision.

Online product reviews are known to be the latest emerging marketing strategy on the internet. Aside from the sites intended mainly for posting reviews about certain products, old or new, in the online market, there are also forums wherein people who have recently used the product can provide useful information for decision support on other consumers. In some cases, the feedbacks listed on the site can forecast the actual performance of the product or model upon launching on the market. After all, the pre-release marketing has been considered as one of the strongest factors that could indicate actual performance, especially with the high level of accuracy that reviewers have provided.

At its core, online product reviews sites are intended to provide product information and is geared more towards personal usage experience at the core of the review and evaluation of the product. Each aspect of the product or model is analyzed to suit each individual user’s needs and preferences. Whether users value affordability, utmost functionality, ease of use, or innovation of technology, each of these aspects are evaluated during product reviews for an idiosyncratic match. It is also a great way to promote the word-of-mouth marketing and create more buzz about a certain product.

For the reviewers, they use varying metrics to come up with a benchmark for a particular product or model. It is therefore a valid way to provide useful information for different population segments and come up with realistic feedback.

Aside from consumers, sellers also make good use of online product reviews. It allows sellers to come up with the counteractive marketing strategy to respond to the consumer reviews published on various sites online, which particularly tackle on two basic questions: when and how. The information provided on the consumer review utilizes two aspects of information regarding the product: the information attributed to the product and the information formulated by the buyer or tester of the product. The latter type of information has more weight since it expounds on the actual product performance aside from what the product claims to do or deliver.

The timing of release for consumer reviews for certain products therefore set as a strategic variable that both parties (consumers and sellers) can use to their advantage. Of course, how one person utilizes the information provided in the review is dependent on the individual preference and criteria that a consumer has created for them. Hence, one can notice the increasing amount of online product reviews currently available on the internet since they serve as a good source of information for those who want to make intelligent buying decisions. Just make sure that if you are going to utilize this information is to look at the site’s credibility to ensure that the consumer review information you got is valid.

Folding Shopping Cart Product Review – How to Find a Shopping Cart That Is Just Right For You

Shopping carts, since their advent in 1937 have proved to be buyers’ delight. People say their first usage was in the supermarket Humpty Dumpty in Oklahoma City. With refinement in the manufacturing process and advent of newer technology improved versions of shopping carts flooded the markets. Folding Shopping Carts proved to be the most popular type of shopping carts and perhaps the handiest one. They are very easy to use. They generally are fitted with rubber or plastic wheels. Their handles are often fitted with various types of gripping material for superior control and comfort.

Today’s world has seen a lot of development in the Folding Grocery Carts. The Collapsible Carts available today come with innumerable features to be chosen from. They not only cater to the people of higher age groups but also are gaining popularity with the young adults. They are a boon to the physically challenged people who now can shop by their own. They do not need others’ help in doing so. The Collapsible carts available today often are incorporated with some kind baskets to carry the infants, so that dotting parents can shop with ease with their adorable ones in front of their eyes. Mobility Scooters available in various shopping malls are the improved version of the Collapsible Carts which carry the merchandize from one point to another only at a touch of a button, making life of the buyers easier than ever before. Collapsible Utility Carts are another variant of the Folding Shopping carts wherein they have detachable basket and a collapsible mainframe for the purpose of easy storage.

Shopping Carts have time and again proved to be a machine helping people to carry their merchandize at shops. With advancement in the economic conditions of various nations, the shopping malls, departmental stores and the super markets i.e. the retailer business is gaining popularity worldwide. Shopping carts are available in those people to carry their merchandize from the shops to their cars. Shopping carts have eased the burden of shopping in terms of reducing the amount of load to be carried by the people. Moreover from the retailers’ perspective it has been a boon as they have been able to sell more and more goods at a time.

Just like sunny days are followed by dark nights. Similarly with every good thing some bad things are always associated. Collapsible carts in spite being boon to the shoppers have been the cause of many unfortunate accidents which often proved fatal for the infants. Carts having the facility to carry the infants occupy the centre stage. Often there are reports of children sustaining injuries by falling from the carts. Parents or guardians should always have control over the Shopping carts as moving carts and carts in the hands of the children had been the reason for many broken items in the store and accidents involving cuts and bruises. Since the carts at the shops are used by large number of people so it becomes a common point for contamination of diseases not only to the children but also to the adults. But these unfortunate events can be easily taken care of by ensuring that the carts used at the shops are of good quality. With a little bit of alertness, awareness and readiness many unfortunate can easily be avoided.

Newer technology has helped in production of electronic carts. These carts are easy to handle and can be stored easily. They can even be retrieved very easily. They are often fitted with remote controlled mechanisms and transmitters, so that they can be easily located and retrieved from the parking lot. Moreover they cannot be stolen easily.

Collapsible Carts and the Folding ones are of great utility. They not only cater to immediate need of carrying bulk amount of goods but also ensure huge amount of sales, earning the retailers huge profit. It is a boon to both the buyers as well as the retailers. Since their inventions in 1937 they had been put to use in various ways in various places on this planet. More and better designs are coming up these days. But shopping with a greater degree of comfort is the motto on which it thrives on.