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Convergence of Social Networks and E-Commerce Shopping

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The online shopping surge is an undeniable and growing reality. And, in the near term, we will see an increasing number of e-commerce sites that incorporate the social networking concept into their business models.

In fact, there are already a handful of dedicated social shopping networks that have gained a share of this phenomenon. Unfortunately, such early growth has obscured for many vendors the importance of tapping into current social networks and leveraging the power of the strong followings these have.

A fact that should be leveraged now, and also in future, is that e-commerce vendors and e-tailers alike should look first at tapping into aforementioned existing communities, particularly those such as Facebook that make it easy to build add-on applications and tools. This will allow players in the e-commerce industry to create a more valuable shopping environment for a ready-made target audience.

In addition, ensuring available tools that include feedback forums and list shares are optimized and at shoppers' disposal is important. The future of social e-commerce relies heavily on the continued improvement and reintroduction of complementary utility tools to sustain the viability of its existence.

Finally, mobile, or m-commerce, is increasingly becoming the new digital platform. Where social networks grow here, so also does the opportunity to tap into these communities and the purchasing power of a consumer on the go.

Although social shopping is only beginning to make its mark on the web arena, its early form can be traced back to groups hanging out at the mall, where brick-and-mortar shops thrived. A large majority of people still prefer to enjoy an afternoon in a traditional setting, with friends and families in tow, browsing through store racks or simply whiling the time away. It is a bonding experience bound by common taste and enriched by shared opinions. It is an experience that relies on shared tastes and the sharing of opinions, but first and foremost, it is usually about being together.

Over the last decade, online shopping has continued to show evidence of unstoppable growth. The abundance of affordable e-commerce developmental tools has made it easier for anyone to jump online and set up shop in a short time.

On the consumer side, there are a number of reasons why people have become more comfortable with buying online, and younger generations certainly have "grown up" in this environment. That said, until recently, the social element was lacking. Shoppers went online to buy, and they mainly did so alone.

There are many exciting ideas in play and on the horizon that will take the benefits of both the offline and online world to offer a converged experience of being with friends, while buying from the location of choice. E-commerce vendors are recognizing the value of incorporating social elements into the online shopping experience to sustain interest and encourage revisits.

Familiar concepts that bring online shopping back to the social realm already include allowing shoppers to share products with each other and create wish lists, a particularly useful feature during the holiday shopping season and year round. Conversion rates are traditionally much higher when the friend of a shopper is recommending or sharing a product.

Another trend on the rise is the development of applications that allow the sharing of information among the group on shopping interests, new products, or recently purchased items. It enhances camaraderie and enriches social relations.

There's also the direction that many different disciplines and services are headed, and that's mobile. With mobile advertising and mobile social networks on the rise, being prepared to optimize the immediate nature and buying power of these is going to be a differentiator for e-commerce vendors in terms of who thrives and who dies.

One caution: in spite of the growth in this sector, online social shopping is still too young to have demonstrated significant areas to avoid or to have delivered best practices, and merchants should carefully consider their options before jumping in.

Make sure a positive experience is there before opening it up for comment — consumers are very conscious and diligent. Consider one complaint in a social environment. It will instantly reach everyone on a user's network or multiple networks and be most likely to resonate coming from a friend. An unfortunate experience and the resulting commentary can immediately cut a merchant's audience in half. Be wary also of privacy invasion, and make features clear and optional.

In conclusion, the online social shopping environment of the future is an integrated, interactive marketplace, where more and more, everyone is connected independent of their physical location or in-person communication style.

The future is an environment that allows shoppers to communicate with friends in real time and according to specified preferences. It's dynamic and it's mobile. When future online communities arise specifically as social shopping networks, we'll see a great deal of interesting commentary on hot products and trends and be able to react and reach more people with new items in a faster way than ever before.

About the Author

Doron Simovitch co-founded in March 2004 and has served as president and CEO since its inception. As CEO, Doron drives the overall direction and determines business strategies, while overseeing all growth and day-to-day operations for the company. Under Doron's direction, has consistently lead the industry in innovation and user experience, making the company one of the fastest growing online shopping comparison sites today. Doron has more than 10 years experience in managing technology and e-commerce.

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 phenomenon  industry  holiday shopping season  professions  surge  consumers

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