The Complete Guide to Social Shopping

With all of the new ways to shop online cropping up over the past year or two, it can be difficult to sort through the best deals for your money. We take a look at all of the different types of social shopping available on and off the web, so you can become an e-commerce 3.0 expert.

Group Buying / Daily Deals

Group buying websites are perhaps the best-known of the social shopping bunch. They offer deep discounts – up to 90% off – local products, services and events. Think half-off that new sushi bar or 80% off a mani-pedi. Their appeal is that they are locally-focused, and usually offer a new deal every day. You can buy a deal and go redeem it the next day next door.

These sites are able to offer massive discounts because they rely on group buying – offering local businesses a slew of new customers who all purchase the deal in bulk. Through the social power of the internet, these sites can pull in consumers who otherwise wouldn’t patronize a certain business and entice them with huge discounts.

Notable Group Buying Sites:

Group buying is the hot property in social shopping right now, and because of this, there are much too many daily deals websites to list. However, there are services that will aggregate the daily deals in your area for you, grabbing info from Groupon, LivingSocial and dozens of others. Two which are quite popular right now are Dealradar.com and UK-based Deal Romeo.

Reviews and Recommendations

People tend to trust peer reviews over corporate advertising, and the social web is a perfect host for social shopping experiences that rely on reviews. These types of shopping sites usually have a list of products that are rated and reviewed by members of the site. This is nothing new – think Amazon – but with the latest social shopping craze, these recommendation sites have really stepped it up: many offer discounts for reviewing a product or points for recommending a purchase to friends and family.

Notable Review and Recommendation Sites:

If you are looking to discover the latest trends or get rewarded for passing on a great deal to your friends, review and recommendation social shopping sites are for you.

Real-Time Online Shopping

One of the newest social shopping experiences, real-time online shopping is gaining in popularity. Users can log on to a site and either connect with Facebook or another social network, or invite their friends and family via email. They can then shop online at the same time, discussing products and getting each other’s opinion on services.

Notable Real-Time Online Shopping Sites:

Some real-time shopping providers, such as DoTogether, have taken advantage of Facebook’s social graph and integrated their shopping service right into the social network. You can simply log in to Facebook, install the app, and invite your friends via chat or message to join in on the virtual retail therapy.

Geo-Location Based Social Shopping

Amid a relatively new form of commerce comes an even newer way to leverage social technology for consumers: geo-location-based social shopping. Using a geo-location service like Foursquare or Facebook Places, this type of social shopping happens in brick-and-mortar stores. Upon entering, you are usually given some points or are directed to in-store deals from within the geo-location app on your smartphone. Users can also look up product information and interact with other shoppers, all via their smartphones.

Notable Geo-Location Based Shopping Services:

As this is still a very new use of technology to encourage social shopping, there really is no standard for geo-location based shopping yet. For instance, Shopkick uses a rewards-based system that gives users points when they enter participating stores and even visit particular aisles within these stores. The points can be redeemed for gift certificates at that stores. myShopanion, on the other hand, is geared more towards the deal-hunting shopper, giving users access to a large database of reviews and ratings from other shoppers by scanning barcodes in store.

Charity-Based Shopping

Another major trend in the social shopping experience is combining consumerism with charity. There are several websites and apps that allow users to somehow donate to charity when they shop. This donation is usually either added on as as percentage of the sale, or, more commonly, costs the consumer nothing and instead is given by a sponsor or corporate partner of the social shopping service.

Notable Charity-Based Shopping Sites:

Some charitable social shopping sites, like iGive, give discounts to their users for shopping through their network of affiliate retailers and businesses. Others, like Endorse for a Cause, leverage users’ existing social networks and donate more money to their charity the more friends they refer to the site.

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