The integration of shopping and social networking features is not a new phenomenon. eBay launched eBay Neighborhoods a few years ago, Hearst acquired social shopping service Kaboodle, and there’s Jellyfish, which was bought by Microsoft. Retailers themselves have half-heartedly embraced social networking as a marketing tool, adding branded Facebook pages, creating profiles on social networks and posting ads.
Interactive online retail marketing agency Fluid Inc. hopes to take this one step further for retailers. Its “Fluid Social” technology allows for retailers to offer a chat feature on their Websites that integrates shoppers’ Facebook Friends and Groups in order to enhance their online shopping experience.
Here’s how it works. If you see an item you like while browsing a retail site, you can request feedback about a product from your friends by pushing information about the product (such as images from clothing, links to products, and movie clips) to your Facebook status update. Under the product image, you are given the option of clicking on a ‘Share on Facebook’ button and are prompted to add the given retailer’s Facebook application. Once added, you can rate the item and ask for feedback via a link back to the product that is published directly into your status update feed.
Your friends’ comments or ratings on the status update can be seen directly on the product’s page on the retailer’s site and are updated in real-time. The app also lets you invite specific Facebook friends to rate the product without publishing to your status update. Of course, throughout the shopping process, you must be logged into Facebook. Fluid’s technology also allows for real-time chat separate from Facebook. This feature lets you send an email to a friend inviting them to join you in a chat about a product. Once the invitee joins, you can openly chat with them via Facebook Chat on the product page of the site.
This implementation is promising for several reasons. For retailers, these peer-to-peer interactions allows for shoppers to never leave their site to get feedback from friends. For shoppers, it lets them see ratings and comments on specific products from friends whose opinions they value and trust. And the real-time chat let’s you get this information instantaneously. Currently, Fluid has enlisted Vans, Lucky Brand Jeans and Warner Entertainment to incorporate Fluid Social.
Collaborative shopping isn’t new—plenty of retail sites offer live chats with store reps, but the ability to do it directly with your friends and Facebook contacts adds a new twist. With the current drought in consumer retail spending, retailers may be looking for other ways to engage consumers. Fluid says it plans to integrate Twitter into its technology in the near future by allowing users to tweet directly from the retail site as well. Heaven help us.