Thursday, May 7, 2009

Charlotte Russe Takes Social Shopping A Step Further with ShopTogether App

Written by Amanda Ferrante

Social media has emerged as a must-have for retailers. While many retailers are cultivating a presence on social networking sites, like MySpace and Facebook, Charlotte Russe has created in-store signage directing customers to their MySpace page for the latest fashion, accessories and even the option to shop. Taking it a step further, the retailer has added a component to its e-commerce site giving visitors the option to ShopTogether. Created by DecisionStep, the technology is designed to allow online customers to share synchronized shopping sessions with friends and family. The integration allows shoppers to share and compare items as well as communicate via a chat feature. GNC and Lillian Vernon are currently using this technology.

Consumers trust friends above experts when it comes to product recommendations (65% trust friends; 27% trust experts), according to Yankelovich Research. Social or collaborative shopping is not only helping retailers boost sales, but it has many short and long term benefits for online retailers, creating the opportunity to impact the shopper mindset and increase lifetime value:
  • Influence consumers at the point of decision. Customer reviews and recommendations are widely regarded as one of the biggest elements of a shopper’s decision.
  • Increased Web traffic- One of the selling points for retailers of collaborative shopping is just that—it’s collaborative. Shoppers can invite one or more friends, increasing the number of site visitors. The more time people spend—the more likely they are to buy.
  • Driving Immediate Purchases- While some online shoppers may only research products but not necessarily buy, positive reinforcement from a friend or family member could convince them to make the purchase at that moment.
  • Increased Conversion Rates/Multiple Purchases- Friends often share common denominators and preferences. If a shopper shares their prospective purchase with another, both may be likely to buy the product.
Come Together…And Shop!
While technologies like ShopTogether seem like a perfect fit for teen and young adult shoppers, a similar application is helping Art e-retailer Novica gives its more sophisticated customers the ability to share their artistic insight and preferences. Novica has partnered with Sesh, a technology providing group Web browsing and visual communication. Novica Sesh enables customers to view the same Web page, at the same time, from different computers. “Offering some sort of discount to current shoppers for bringing friends to shop with them online makes a lot of sense,” says Jarrod Rogers, CEO, Sesh. “Shoppers are likely to spend more time and while doing so they will share their excitement firsthand about the products, turning their friends into buyers.”

Customers can share and discuss products with each other by drawing or chatting on the page. From a prompt directly below a shopper’s name on the upper left of the home page, the technology launches a system through Sesh.com that frames the web site, allowing a shopper to invite another registered Novica shopper to discuss products in a chat box, write notes on top of any section of a web page, and use pen tools to draw on the site. Co-browsing functionality also enables shoppers to navigate the site together, each taking turns guiding one another to different pages.

Sesh is in the early stages of creating a Facebook application that users can download to their accounts. The application will enable a user to invite a Facebook friend (within the walls of the closed social network) to a “sesh.” If the friend accepts, the application will then take both users out of Facebook.com through Sesh.com to the retailer’s home page for co-browsing. Further, the company foresees tying this functionality to retailers’ social network display advertising. Recent research indicates that women over 55 are the fastest growing group of users on Facebook, with a 550% increase in the past six months alone, according to Andy Lloyd, CEO of Fluid, Inc.

Fluid developed an innovative, user-friendly social shopping platform, Fluid Social, with real time chat and the ability to solicit the opinions of friends in the buying process. Fluid Social is used by Vans, Jansport and Chaparral Motor Sports, who reported a 15% increase in online sales and an increase in conversion rates since replacing their previous interactive imaging solution with Fluid Experience.

Give Customers Something to Shop About
Although Charlotte Russe has adopted the ShopTogether platform, it is not widely promoted. For optimal results, these efforts should be paraded in-store, and most importantly, on the homepage. “Email the user lists and feature it on Facebook fan pages,” suggests Lloyd. “We also expect in the future that Fluid Social will be a mechanism where brands push promotions to users, to reward their most dedicated consumers. For example, when someone invites their friends to comment on a product using Fluid Social, which draws new shoppers to the site. It makes sense for retailers to reward this behavior with special promotions such as offering 10% off to both shoppers when one arrives via Fluid Social.”

Lloyd says there is great value in friend-based merchandising. “Using the Facebook integration, it is trivial to invite specific friends to comment on a product,” he says. “This is much easier than the current standard, which is email to a friend, since you can simply click on a friend's picture and invite them to comment without needing to manually enter their email address. Further, unlike email to a friend, those comments are stored and available on the site forever.”

Click here to view Fluid’s recent white paper sizing up the opportunity for retailers in social shopping.

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There's an Elephant in the Malls. Who invited it? The stores. Who loses? Mall owners and stores. But it can be harnessed to benefit customers, mall owners and stores... http://thenowmall.blogspot.com

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