Chicago, 2010: Dan is looking to buy a decent home theater system to complement the new LED TV he purchased. Dan doesn’t know much about home theater systems so he logs on to Bestbuy.com where he has setup his online “Media Closet” which tracks all the gadgets and electronic devices he currently owns. Dan is able to find 18 “Audio Gurus” who also have an expertise on the products that are currently in his media closet. These gurus have been voted as the experts by the online community so Dan thinks that he can trust their recommendations. Dan invites one of the experts to view his “Online Media Closet” – which shows the information about the Blu Ray player, LED TV, a Netflix streaming device and a WII console that he would like to connect to the home theater system. The expert makes recommendation for two high end home theater systems that are currently on sale. Dan purchases one of the home theater systems and the Audio Guru receives affiliate points from Bestbuy for his help in the consultative selling.
New York, 2010: It is 11:30pm and Sally is looking to buy a new dress for the upcoming Christmas party. She logs on to Looklet.com, picks up a dress and matching shoes and saves the new look in her profile. She gets prompted by Looklet if she would like to get an opinion from her friends. Looklet displays all her online Facebook friends via Facebook connect . Sally sees that her best friends Nancy and Tina are still online and invites them to give an opinion on the new look. They are able to chat and view the products in real time. Both Nancy and Tina love the new dress but aren’t too crazy about the new shoes. Sally is able to find other “Fashion Experts” on Looklet who have favorited the same dress – and she is able to find better shoes based upon recommendations from those experts. Welcome to a new phenomenon in online retailing – “Social Shopping”. This term has been used more and more in the past few months to describe the future of online shopping. Although the above two examples are not yet real but several pieces of these concepts are already in action at several online retailers. Given all this hype around social shopping, I thought it would be good to talk about some of the practical examples where online retailers can start thinking about implementing some of these concepts on their platforms.