by Dave Jackson
Last week, social shopping site ThisNext announced plans to buy smaller rival StyleHive; that announcement came after news from Time Inc. last month that it would buy social recommendation engine StyleFeeder as a way to incorporate ecommerce into its online fashion magazine properties.
This recent rush of consolidation points to a trend that’s evident no matter where you look: Consumers have flocked to social networks as an easier way of communicating with friends and peers, getting information, building relationships and participating in community. Activities that used to take place in the physical world — in shopping malls, over the phone, at restaurants and at neighborhood events — have rapidly moved to places like Facebook, Twitter and countless other third-party networks like StyleHive, ThisNext and StyleFeeder.
Most brand marketers have realized this shift and have stepped into these new “common spaces” of the 21st century. They’ve created fan pages on Facebook, accounts on Twitter and channels on YouTube, and have replicated offline marketing tactics, like advertising, coupons and promotions to engage online fans and gain new customers.
With the exception of a few innovative brands like Mattel and Charlotte Russe, however, the majority of online businesses have yet to take the next logical step and allow this social interaction to take place at their own online stores. To continue the common-spaces analogy, imagine if a downtown store only let one customer come into the shop at a time, while the customer’s friends waited on the street. The shopper could go outside every few minutes to get opinions on the outfit or finish a conversation, but had to return to the store alone to browse or make a purchase. (read more)