Social shopping – the future of social networking and retail?

Retailers are only just seeing the light when it comes to combining social networking and e-commerce, but those who have got in early are already reaping the rewards.

Marketing Week columnists have already touched on the growing wave of retailers experimenting beyond e-commerce, and combining it with facets of social networking, such as online shopper profiles.

My colleague Lucy Handley further discusses how brands can use synergies between social networking and e-commerce to drive greater online purchasing in this Trends feature.

But it surprises me that some high street retailers such as Gap, Zara and H&M have only recently opened their websites to e-commerce, showing they have some way to go in taking advantage of the online world to increase sales.

I wonder how many sales fashion brands who are slow on the online uptake have lost out to retailers who have been quick to make the online space theirs; the likes of very.co.uk, Boohoo, Asos, and the more upmarket Net A Porter and The Outnet.

As something of a shopping enthusiast myself (I like to think of it as a constructive hobby), I have browsed all of these online websites, as I’m sure many young professionals like myself do, who increasingly have less time in their busy lives to do so on the high street.

I have found none so easy as shopping on Asos, which makes the whole experience so seamless and pain free, using clever tactics such as offering free delivery above a certain purchase spend to increase the value of your shopping basket. And gone is the anxiety over whether something may not fit, as the retailer offers free returns on all purchases.

Aside from all these brilliant practicalities being offered as common sense tools, the website offers a hub for fashionistas who want to do more than just click and pay and want to interact with other fellow shoppers by sharing advice on new trends.

Over 1.7 million people have profiles within the Asos ’Life’ section of the site, where users can post and view fashion blogs, join groups, and get and give style ideas. The retailer also positions the tone of its Twitter feed as a friend giving exclusive fashion tips to other friends, giving it a warm engaging feel.

I might be slightly biased based on my own shopping habits but I have not encountered another retailer as embracing of its customers.

Neither can I think of another fashion retailer that is so close to its customer base thanks to its pioneering of “social shopping”. Asos certainly offers a first class example of building a brand through social media in an expert way.

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