With social media cementing its position in our lives there is barely time for marketers to get their head around a new site/social channel before the next one is upon us.
Whilst social shopping is not a new concept it is yet to reach the mass adoption of other social media channels. However it seems that this is all set to change.
New to social shopping? What is it all about?
Social shopping websites/networks leverage the community and relationship aspects of social media to enable consumers to share, discuss and rate retail products.
Why will it take off now?
The online influence
Online retailing is just one of the booming digital sectors in Australia and whilst not all activity in this sector directly results in online sales – the influence of the internet in the decision making process cannot be ignored;
Research from the Australian Centre for Retail Studies (January 2008) showed that 50 per cent of Australian shoppers had researched their products online before heading into a store to complete their purchase.
Retail Search Behaviour
In addition many sectors are experiencing significant growth in search queries which depict the growing interest to research and or buy retail products online. So which sub-sectors are sparking interest on the web?
According to Google in a recent press release;
• Shopping-related queries were 22% higher in March 2009, compared with March 2008 Apparel-related queries were 34% higher in March 2009, compared with March 2008
• Queries for Clothing labels and designers were 29% higher in March 2009, compared with March 2008
Online Retail Spending Trends
If like most trends we are behind our US & UK counterparts, online shopping is set to grow in Australia. Online shopping comprises almost 7 per cent of all purchases in the British department store segment and 8 per cent in the US, IBISWorld figures show. In Australia, online shopping is worth less than 3 per cent of department store sales. However according to IBISWorld, online retailers will grow by 4.3 per cent per annum over the next five years, providing much-needed good news to the fashion industry.
Part of this trend is driven by the economic downturn which is driving more Australians to turn to the internet to source bargains through research and price comparisons rather than buying on impulse. However part of this is also driven by the increasing amount of time users spend online.
What sites are out there?
There are already many social shopping networks and bookmarking sites that are popping up. I have detailed some of the popular sites for you however this is becoming a popular space and there are many other alternatives;
Very popular on a global scale Kaboodle attracts more than 12 million visitors per month. Kaboodle is a social shopping network where users can discover new products and recommend items to their friends.
According to Alexa, Kaboodle sits within the top 1000 sites in Australia. 1.6% of their total monthly visitors are from Australia which equates to nearly 200,000 Australian visitors per month.
StyleFeeder is said to be more of a social bookmarking service for shopping to enable users to bookmark items of interest and gain ratings from their friends.
According to Forrester Style Feeder generates 1.2 million unique visitors per month, of which 1.8% are from Australia – representing approx 22,000 unique Australian visitors per month.
ThisNext positions its site as a shopcasting network to discover and broadcast a users interest in products. According to Alexa, Australian traffic to thisnext was approx 45,000 in September of 2008 and given the sites growth this number could be substantially higher.
Tribesmart is a social shopping community which has a strong emphasis on product reviews as well as offering the opportunity to gain user opinions and have discussion with tribes. Accordingly to Alexa Australians represent a total of 10.6% of the sites total traffic. In December 2008 the site only generated 42,000 unique visitors thus only 4,200 Australians visited – however I have listed it as one to watch given the portion of Australian users.
So what opportunities exist?
If you are managing an eCommerce site in Australia and are new to social shopping the first step is to start to observe community behaviour and interests to determine which site/s are best for your target audience.
These sites offer many benefits to marketers from more traditional online opportunities such as affiliate programs and online advertising, through to other benefits derived from social media platforms such as group development, ability to demonstrate specialist knowledge in niche product categories through Q&A type functions, product feedback gathering along with gaining market intelligence to identify future/upcoming trends.
If you have experimented with social shopping sites, or want to add an additional popular social shopping site for Australians why not share your thoughts below.