STORES - September 2010 - (Page 30)

WORTH WATCHING / SOCIAL SHOPPING Friend-powered Shopping The widget e-tailers can TurnTo BY D. GAIL FLEENOR O rdering merchandise online is the way many customers fill their shopping bags these days. But online shopping lacks one component that can increase sales: social interaction. At least that’s what George Eberstadt, CEO and founder of TurnTo Networks, firmly believes. His New York City-based company’s recently introduced TurnTo Social Commerce Suite gives online retailers the tools they need to leverage social networks and sales data for increased sales. By installing the onsite social widget on their websites, retailers can create a social shopping experience. For example,, a site that sells home furnishings at “North Carolina factory direct prices,” has a button on its site labeled “See What Your Friends Are Buying.” When shoppers click on the button, they can log onto Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or another social site of their choice. From there, they view a list of their friends, friends of friends or neighbors in the same zip code who have made purchases on the site. The widget also pulls up a list of repeat customers, which can bolster the comfort level of potential shoppers. TurnTo’s widget recently debuted after 18 months spent beta testing the original “social merchandising” version. The new component provides a “social purchase sharing” option to online retailers and is being rolled out site by site. Why does online shopping need a social component? “It’s important to put online consumers visibly into an online store,” Eberstadt says. Input from friends and neighbors will sway customers to consider products that they might not have purchased without this social influence. “Seeing that friends and neighbors have made purchases on a site helps consumers view the e-tailer as more of a legitimate store,” he explains, 30 STORES / SEPTEMBER 2010 “and helps them to feel more comfortable making purchases.” Shoppers can view clickable photos of friends’ purchases and read comments about the items or site shopping experience. High conversion rates By making an online site a friendly place to shop, e-tailers can reap additional sales, Eberstadt says. “On every site using our solution, shoppers that use the onsite social widget convert” at rates “two to four times higher than those without the widget.” The application runs directly on the retailer’s site and is a SaaS offering that can be implemented in about five hours, he says. Social data is gathered from online store shoppers who are invited to participate at the last stage of their purchase, after receiving their order confirmation number. Shoppers are invited to allow their friends and neighbors to see their purchases. The customer must authorize this disclosure and privacy is strictly guarded, Eberstadt says. Shoppers are also asked to make comments on their purchases. TurnTo’s retail customers represent a broad range of segments including electronics, home and garden, watches and jewelry, food and gifts, pet supplies and apparel. About two-thirds of the company’s clients are pure-play e-tailers. Eberstadt is an old hand at IT start-ups featuring a social component — TurnTo Networks is his fourth. His company is “trying to pioneer the second generation of social retail: social shopping.” TurnTo “ is part of the second wave of social commerce,” Eberstadt says. “The first social application in retail was customer reviews, which were a big hit — you see them in almost all retail sites.” While some people are building stores on Facebook that never touch the merchant’s online store, TurnTo’s onsite social widget runs on the retailer’s website. “With TurnTo, shopping becomes more personal,” Eberstadt says. “It’s not just a bulletin board of shopper reviews. It is a friendlier place to shop. The solution helps create dialogue between shoppers and their friends around the products they are buying.” StORES D. Gail Fleenor, a Virginia-based freelance business writer, has nearly 20 years experience in retail and consumer research. WWW.STORES.ORG http://WWW.STORES.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of STORES - September 2010

STORES - September 2010
Table of Contents
Editor's Page
President's Page
Retail People
Favorite 50
Retail Showcase
Customer Retention
Social Shopping
Gift Cards
Business Intelligence
Networking & Communications
Customer Centricity
Payments & Credit
Return Fraud
Green Issues
ARTS Update
Point of View
NRF News
Retail Industry Calendar
End Cap

STORES - September 2010