Social Media

A Look at Notable Social Shopping Sites: Social, Wired and Fashion Forward

September 18, 2009

“I like my money right where I can see it: hanging in my closet.”
– Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City”

These days that closet doesn’t need to be based in reality; instead it can be found in the virtual world of social shopping. On the heels of Fashion Week, we decided to take a look at some of the latest social shopping sites and examples of marketing opportunities they afford.

Social shopping sites have been around for a while, but recently marketers have started seeing newer, more robust opportunities for customer interaction with their brands on these sites. While the features on social shopping sites differ, social shoppers generally set up personal profiles on these sites and use them for sharing and recommending fashion products, online tools and deals among like-minded communities of shoppers (think Facebook with a shopping component).

Some of the newer features that have been cropping up recently include setting up sales alerts for coveted items and creating personal fashion editorial pages (think MySpace for fashionistas).

Below is an overview of the top social shopping sites based on unique visitors from comScore, and the top attributes which set them apart.

Kaboodle.com
Average Monthly Unique Visitors over the Past Year*: 5,888,000

What is it?
Kaboodle was one of the first social shopping sites to offer real social interaction in an easy to use interface. Prior to Kaboodle’s launch in 2005, most online shopping platforms were essentially compilations of digital catalogs. Kaboodle is now by far the most popular social shopping site with the largest and most active community of users.

The site focuses on user generated content and gives users tools to interact with each other in meaningful ways. Kaboodle’s uploading tool makes it easy for users to add any number of products, including clothes, furniture, and beauty products. Users can create wish lists and shopping lists, post polls to the community (see screenshot above), make personal fashion collages, participate in sponsored contests, write their own blogs, and read original editorial content on the site.

Bottom line: Kaboodle is by far the largest social shopping site in terms of traffic, giving marketers access to a large and lively community of motivated shoppers.

Potential opportunities for marketers: Brand profiles (similar to Facebook’s branded pages) and sponsored contests (see screenshot below).

Polyvore.com
Average Monthly Unique Visitors over the Past Year*: 896,000

What is it?
Polyvore is a shopping site that engages its users by giving them creative control over the site’s content. Polyvore users create their own editorial pages, called “sets,” and share them with the community (see screenshot above).

Users interact with each other’s sets— browsing, commenting, liking, and taking inspiration from them. Polyvore users can easily post their sets on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, adding a viral component to the site’s features. Marketers can view the sets as user generated ads, since users are creating and spreading editorials with retailers’ products.

Additionally, users on this site are actively engaged in its content with 72% of users reporting that they have been influenced to buy something they saw on Polyvore and 83% saying that they have discovered brands/products they really like (Polyvore registered user Survey September 2009).

Bottom line: The site gives its users a space to be creative and artistic. Marketers can leverage this creativity by having Polyvore users create and spread user generated ads for their brands.

Potential opportunities for marketers: Sponsored contests (see screenshot below), sponsorship of Polyvore’s styling tool, featuring product results in the site’s shopping search.

ShopStyle.com
Average Monthly Unique Visitors over the Past Year*: 876,000

What is it?
ShopStyle is designed with the sophisticated shopper in mind. Encouraging users to browse their large catalog of products, ShopStyle also allows users to share, favorite, add to wish lists, buy, or have sales alerts sent for any of the products. Users can also create simple collages to illustrate their fashion perspectives and interests, and they can create and join groups.

Here, the social experience takes a back seat to the shopping. An interesting feature of ShopStyle is its sales alerts which can be set for specific brands or specific products (see screenshot above).

Bottom line: The site is for the serious shopper looking for a one stop solution— giving its users a single destination to shop for all their favorite brands. Retailers on the site essentially have another online shop to help generate sales and visits.

Potential opportunities for marketers: Retailer partnerships with ShopStyle.com.

ThisNext.com
Average Monthly Unique Visitors over the Past Year*: 846,000

What is it?
ThisNext is a product recommendation community. Users recommend products to the community and browse other recommendations (see screenshot above-left). The site also uses Shopping.com on their recommendation pages to power offers on similar products.

Additionally, ThisNext has a unique “Watch People Shop” page (see screenshot above-right). Similar to Twitter’s real time focus, this feature allows ThisNext users to see what people in the community are shopping for at any given moment.

Bottom line: The site gives users access to a large catalog of products (including clothing, electronics, home goods, etc.) that have been reviewed/recommended by their peers. Marketers have a view into what consumers are organically recommending their products and what they are saying about them.

Potential opportunities for marketers: Retailer profiles are currently in beta on the site, these pages will allow retailers to have a presence on ThisNext where they can share new products and interact with the community (see screenshot below).

StyleFeeder.com
Average Monthly Unique Visitors over the Past Year*: 706,000

What is it?
StyleFeeder users create lists of products called “StyleFeeds” to showcase their style and taste. StyleFeeder then becomes a user’s personal shopping assistant by sharing product recommendations and “StyleTwins” (other like-minded users) based on their activity on the site (see screenshot above).

Bottom line: The site provides a useful recommendation tool for its users. The idea is that retailers can rely on Stylefeeder to recommend their products to the right customers at the right time.

Potential opportunities for marketers: Stylefeeder’s commission-based affiliate program, where Stylefeeder carries out bulk uploads for the retailer and then receives a sales commission.

StyleHive.com
Average Monthly Unique Visitors over the Past Year*: 377,000

What is it?
Stylehive has a wide variety of features to keep its users engaged. Stylehive users can upload products, join communities within Stylehive (see screenshot above), read the Stylehive blog, enter contests, and find the most popular users and tags for the week. Stylehive also has a Facebook application that allows users to share their Stylehive activity on their Facebook profiles.

Bottom line: Stylehive’s large number of features gives users and marketers alike a variety of ways to communicate with the community.

Potential opportunities for marketers: Branded communities, Daily E-mail sponsorship, Hive Weekly Newsletter Sponsorship, and sponsored contests, polls and slideshows.

While these sites can drive sales and traffic to retailer sites, social shopping opportunities for marketers are more about creating brand presence and interacting with customers who in turn create content and visibility for them.

Piperlime, for example, ran a contest on Polyvore, inviting people to create collages that included at least one Piperlime product. The contest was deemed successful and garnered 3,854 entries and over 400,000 page views of Piperlime content on Polyvore.com over a 2-week period.

In addition, marketers can become more involved with social shopping networks by incorporating them on their own websites. JCPenney, for example, recently added “Add to Stylehive” and “Add to Kaboodle” buttons on their product pages (see screenshot below).

Social shopping on the whole is a fun new arena for fashion brands to not only gain visibility, but to create usable content that provides real value for their customers. This is an area of social media that continues to grow and there are many other shopping sites that marketers should keep an eye on.

Up and comers include Stylecaster.com, a site that features a daily e-mail that gives outfit recommendations based on the weather, and JustBoughtIt.com, a Tweet-based site that allows users to share their purchases instantly via Twitter. As the popularity of virtual closets grows it will become more and more important for marketers to find new ways to grab the fashion spotlight on these sites.

*Average calculated using comScore data, August 2008 – August 2009

– Danielle Mormile and Connie Hsu, 360i Customer Insights