Fall 2007
Word-of-Mouse: Social Shopping Insights

In our summer issue, specialty leasing pro Duffy Weir offered some great advice about finding new products and spotting emerging trends by, among other things, tapping into the online world of social shopping.

Social shopping sites can be a fount of information for retailers. They serve as online focus groups that let retailers take the pulse of shoppers to find out which products they like—or dislike—the most. Retailers can discover which products are creating the most buzz regionally or nationwide, and in some cases get the inside scoop on products not yet on the market.

When shoppers share their feelings about the products they buy and why they find those products so attractive, retailers can spot opportunities to stock new products that are trending up, or jettison products generating negative buzz. Retailers can even use these sites to find ways to re-merchandise their established product lines to target shoppers’ needs and wants with pinpoint accuracy, highlighting the features and benefits consumers are most drawn to and minimizing the factors that inhibit buying.

Here are a few social shopping sites we like, but you can find more online through Google.

StyleHive.com

Stylehive, a social bookmarking community for online shoppers offering women’s fashion and some home furnishings, encourages users to seek out new trends. The “About Us” page sums up Stylehive.com as a “global social shopping community dedicated to discovering and sharing the most exciting products, the stores that sell them and the people who find them.” Users can explore other users’ tags (keywords associated with a particular site bookmark), join other people’s “hives” (similar to buddy lists), and suggest their own tags or bookmarks. They also can check out the site’s blog, which “constantly covers what trends our editors are seeing emerge in the hive.”

ShopStyle.com

Geared towards women and concentrating on fashion apparel and accessories, ShopStyle retails thousands of products for women, teens, children and men. The site tracks what celebrities are wearing, which items are the most popular on the site, and allows users to create and tag their favorite outfits by occasion, collection or trend. Users can assemble outfits into a stylebook they can share with friends or shop from directly. Registered users can add pictures and comments to their stylebook—much like a blog—and share it with others.

WishPot.com

Items including electronics, home furnishings, apparel, jewelry, and even used cars (believe it or not) from any online store or website can be saved to a list on Wishpot with the click of a browser button, creating a “Here’s what to buy me” list for friends and family to view. Details including the product name, image, price and where to buy are collected automatically for the user.

Mobile users who find an item of interest at any store can save that item to their Wishpot list by sending a text message or photo from their cell phone. Users also can explore their friends’ lists to find out what hot new products they’ve found.

Wists.com

Wists is a shopping wish list service where users can create a visual list of things they want, or recommend a product from any online store or website. It works like bookmarking a webpage, except that a thumbnail image is associated with the bookmark. Products viewed on the site include women’s fashions, jewelry, shoes, furniture, home furnishings and electronics, among other items. Wists users can create birthday lists or wedding lists with pictures of products from any store on the Internet, create thumbnail image galleries of favorite items and find products recommended by others.

Zebo.com

This site is more social than shopping. Users can create personalized profiles about what they own, what they want to own, and what kind of items they shop for and purchase. Products on the site include electronics, jewelry, women’s fashions and home furnishings, among others.

The site is also big on visitors seeking the advice of others with such questions as: “Which dress is better for a sweet 16 party?” and “What is the best way to shop for lip gloss?” Users also can check out what other people have and want, chat online about their shopping needs, discuss products with their friends and rate products.

Kaboodle.com

This site, which proclaims on its home page that “Shopping is more fun with friends!” is similar to Wishpot, but it is more broad-based. Users can search for products by category or according to other users lists, join groups to review products, or create their own product lists, which can be organized into collections and shared with others.

CrowdStorm.com

Crowdstorm.com monitors the buzz around products on its site and identifies which products are getting the most attention. Users recommend products to others, write reviews and “the best items bubble up to the top.” Rankings are on the site’s home page.

MyPickList.com

The unique aspect of MyPickList is that users can generate some income by way of recommendations. MyPickList integrates a user’s profile and his or her favorite product recommendations into a portable widget (called a pick list). Once a user creates a pick list, it can be shared with family, friends or the public by adding the widget to any site that accepts them, including popular sites like MySpace, Xanga and Friendster. When someone purchases an item from the user’s list and it is from a retailer on the MyPickList network (like Macy’s or Best Buy, for example) the user receives a commission.

Social shopping is taking word-of-mouth buzz to a new level online, and that’s good news for retailers who want to “listen in” to find out what’s trending up—or down. The product reviews and feedback found on these sites can be the leading indicators of tomorrow’s purchases, giving retailers valuable “real world market intelligence” with a few clicks of a mouse.

And it’s just the beginning for these types of sites. No doubt many more will appear in the months and years ahead.

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