Back in the stone ages (i.e. before the Internet), people would get together with their friends for a day of window shopping.
Going from store to store, comparing and contrasting the alternatives, placing items of interest on layaway, and ultimately making a purchase based on the input of friends.
The web, of course, has changed this dynamic by making it very easy to shop online. Sites like Amazon.com have User Ratings and Reviews applications that allow any member to post their thoughts on a particular item. They also have Wishlist applications that enable people to set aside items that they are considering for purchase.
While these applications provide a great source of information to the shopper, they are still missing the crux of what made window shopping so powerful; namely the input and social camaraderie of friends.
Why is this important? Well, if you look at the chart below from Forrester's "Data Chart of the Week: Who Do People Trust?", you will see that the opinions of friends or acquaintances who have used the product or service is what people value and trust the most.
With the advent of the Social Web, we are at a point where e-commerce websites can start to bring the power of social interactions back to the shopping process.
Social Window Shopping Example
Let's look at an example where you are shopping for running shoes on Sneaks4Geeks.com. You've narrowed your search down to your top three choices by reading all of the anonymous reviews and ratings. It's time to kick it up a notch and get your friends involved!
While you already have some friends on Sneaks4Geeks, you also want to get the opinions of your running friends on Facebook and the Nike+ community.
Sneaks4Geeks uses this really cool Social Window Shopping application that enables people to interact with and get shopping advice from their friends on a range of social sites. The Window Shopping application developers had the mentality of "write once, social everywhere" when they created the application, so they chose Ringside Networks to help them achieve this goal.
So on Sneaks4Geeks you add your top three running shoe choices into the Window Shopping application and reach out to your running friends on Sneaks4Geeks, Facebook, and Nike+. You include the note: "Help me choose! I'm considering the following running shoes for the Broad Street Run in May. What's your favorite?".
Since the Window Shopping application is also integrated into Facebook and Nike+, my friends across all of these sites can respond to my request from within the Window Shopping application available on their particular site. They place their vote for one of the running shoes and provide an insightful comment back.
After a little while, you tally the votes, read the comments, and make your purchase based on the input of your network of friends. For those friends who responded with an opinion, the Window Shopping application automatically thanks them and shares the results of your purchase.
You happily trot off with a new pair of running shoes, and your shopping experience reminds two of your friends that their running shoes are getting pretty worn out...maybe it's time for them to get some new running shoes from Sneaks4Geeks!
For any Social Web initiative to succeed, it is important to find the area of passion that will truly drive social engagement. In the example above, enabling people to shop and interact with friends for their thoughts and opinions touches on a critical area of passion for many people.
Please visit the Social Business section of the Ringside Networks website for more articles on the Social Web and to learn more about how Ringside Networks helps facilitate scenarios such as the Social Window Shopping example covered above.