I got an idea the other day. It wasn’t the most original idea, but it was worth noting and thinking about for a while. The idea was about how bad social shopping is today. Seriously, it is horrible. There are so many good websites out there, but none which help us with our co-ordination problems with regards to shopping.
What is shopping anyway?
Now, when thinking about improving shopping, we need to go to the core of what good shopping really is. Good shopping is all about getting stuff we like. There are basically two ways in which we can get stuff we like. Either we buy it or we get it for free. There are also two social dimensions. Either we buy it ourselves or we get it from someone else.
Also, shopping requires some kind of interaction. Either with some kind of shopping system or with some kind of person. Most of the time, shopping is social. Regardless of where we shop, we usually have to interact with other people to do so. Even if that means ordering something online. We have to send our information to someone who takes care of it and sends us the stuff. Deep down we go through these social processes because we have a built up desire to get something. Either because we just want two seconds alone time with the beautiful cashier, or because our taste tells us that we need the specific product.
Our taste is influenced by our social setting. This is where social shopping is today. Facebook, review websites, social media companies, blogs, comments etc. have helped us make better purchases on websites by allowing us and other users to interact with these products and platforms. The interaction leads to a better understanding of the product and thus increases or decreases our desire to buy it. We become better consumers by understanding other consumers insights of the products we are about to buy.
Facebook in particular has its way of bringing this social selection process closer to you as you are able to see who in your network likes or dislikes some kind of product if that vendor has integrated Facebook with their shopping experience.
Good for the vendor, not for the user
So far, so good. Or is it? Does this kind of solution actually solve any kind of problem for me as a consumer? Yes, it does make me better informed, but does it really help me make better choices? There are several studies which show that it actually does the opposite. By putting the purchase process into a social context it can effect my likelihood of increased poor judgment. Thus the likelihood of making irrational decisions increase as I conform to my social context.
Naturally, this offers great opportunity to the vendor or corporation making the sale. However, it doesn’t solve a problem for me as a user. As one of the key ingredients of any success online is to solve problems or create habits, I see this way of social shopping as passing.
So Jesper, what is the current social shopping experience going to be replaced by?
So I started thinking. The shopping process includes a lot of co-ordination problems. Especially when it comes to making purchases, and especially online purchases.
- I need money in the bank at the same time as I try to buy
- I sometimes don’t know what to buy as I am buying it for someone else
- I might be shopping at completely different places than my friends and thus they will never know what I like
- I need to know if my purchase is the best one possible and my own network might be limited due to lack of data
How can we solve a co-ordination problem for shoppers so that they can get a better experience getting stuff they need?
Today, we shop from websites we go to. My idea is based on the foundation that we let the products come to us. I know.. this is very much in line with the theory building about social objects and is really not that original. But hold on for one second… I actually have a suggested solution here as well.
Social Shopping through Facebook, solving a co-ordination problem
Let’s use Facebook as the example here as it seems like everyone has an account there these days. Let’s say that Facebook were to create a function called “The Vault”. Let’s say that this Vault allowed us as users to add products we meet at online stores, that we feel a desire to buy. “Add to vault“.
Let’s say Facebook offered vendors/companies/producers to add their products and prices to the open graph. (yeah… they actually do this already, but it is not used this way) Let’s also say that I would get a listing of similar products next to the one I have selected in my Vault based on the likes, dislikes and reviews of everyone in the whole world. Let’s say, for a second, that this Vault allowed me to actually get the best deal available for the product that I really desire.
Now, let’s say for a minute, that our friends got access to our vault. And let’s also say that I’ve added a Porche convertible as one of the products I really desire. Come the day of my birthday and Walter, Martin, Petrus and Emil doesn’t know what to buy me. Let’s just ponder on the possibility of Facebook adding the functionality where each one of my 873 friends could donate 10 bucks each to my gift. I know… we’re not close to a Porche yet… but we are pretty close to a really nice trip to the Bahamas.
Let’s give me the opportunity to either use their donations/gifts towards a down payment of the Porche, or perhaps, check them into buying a trip to the Bahamas which was second on the list of desires I have.
Now, let’s get greedy. Let’s say I could create a campaign out of my desire to get anyone in the world to make donations to my Vault wish list. Let’s say that I would be able to add a widget to my blog where people could contribute with a bit of cash just because they think I am an awesome guy providing all these tutorials for free and they want to help me repair my ugly looking apartment walls. Let’s say they would be able to do this… wouldn’t that make the shopping experience soooo much more social? Wouldn’t that be the essence of social shopping. Not only helping the vendors/sellers get their stuff more attractive by putting them into a social context, but also by giving me the means to actually purchase really expensive things… 😀
Making Facebook the Unbeatable Affiliate
Now, I am not yet done. Cause there are some bi-products of this system. Hypothetically, I could have some real friends that I see on a regular basis. Let’s say I was planning a trip together with them and that I was the organizer of the pack. Now, usually I have to pay all the money and then wait patiently for my friends to come along and give me the money 6 months later. But not with the Vault. In the Vault I could enter my desired journey. Then travel agents would outbid each other. The best possible offer would then be accepted by me and my friends through the “Vault co-ordination of payments”. Each one of us would then pay for our part of the trip separately. Easily.
This would in an instant make Facebook the unbeatable affiliate out there. They would be able to make CPO deals with all companies in the world and deliver REAL customers and leads to basically any vertical at all. That’s a pretty bold statement. But think about it for a second. I’ll give you some examples.
Let’s say I want to play poker with one of my friends. Facebook is built partly on challenges such as the “Poke” and “throw a sheep”. The functionality would be used for the challenge. Then a thousand poker rooms would add their offer of added value to these two users. They challenger selects a poker room. They deposit through their Vault account. Poof – out to play!
Let’s say I want to get insurance for my kids as I know they don’t have any as they spent my generous donation on booze instead of taking care of themselves when they went of to college. Let’s say there is an app that allows me to pay for my kids insurance policy through Facebook. I don’t have their current health data, but they do. I pay, they post the needed data and accept.
And so it goes on…
This is making the shopping experience social. Not only put into a social context. THAT is what social shopping should be all about.
Over and out!
(By the way, if you’re a Facebook person reading this… I have more where this came from… equally unoriginal and simple… yet still highly profitable ideas… just send me an e-mail and we’ll chat about it. I’ll trade my ideas and plans any day for open access and a test environment where I have no rules… 🙂 )