a picture of a debit card with social icons on itThe term ‘social shopping’ gets thrown around a lot and it’s used to mean everything from having reviews on your site to consulting friends on Facebook before you buy. To me, the essence of social shopping is the ability to consult with others before you purchase, whether that person is a sales clerk, an anonymous reviewer, or your best friend. Research suggests that greeting a customer can increase sales by up to 25%, so getting personal engagement on purchases just makes a lot of business sense. Here are some ways to increase social shopping on your own site:

Add better reviews: If you sell products and don’t have reviews, add them now. Even bad reviews can increase conversions by 67%. The latest trend is with video reviews. Companies like VideoGenie let customers add a 20 second product review, and sites like ShoeDazzle swear by them.

Let users decide which products are featured: Instead of curating your own product collections, let your customers curate for you. Sites like Fancy show products found by users. Companies like ModCloth take it one step further by having customers vote on which products they should buy. I haven’t seen their conversion numbers, but I would guess that a customer who votes on a product is much more likely to buy after it’s produced.

Offer social-based deals: Offering $ to refer a friend or coupons you can share are popular options, but there are some items that are just better when consumed together. For example, suggest that a consumer might like to share that spa experience with a friend and offer to refund $10 of her and her friend’s purchase if they buy with the same discount code.

Making sharing easier: Most people like a second opinion before they buy, but sharing can be very clunky online. I’ve personally resorted to copying a bunch of Amazon links to send to a friend for their opinion. Instead of forcing customers to do this, upgrade your sharing links to help customers get advice. Also consider adding a widget to let customers select a few items and send those together for a friend to pick their favorite.

Transform customer service into a shopping buddy: Many sites have started to use live chat features for help, but why stop at the help desk? With a little training your customer service people can proactively engage with shoppers to help them find better product options and offer advice. A customer who has spoken to someone from your site is much more likely to convert than one who browsed alone.


Kate Endress is a private equity investor turned entrepreneur and e-commerce pioneer. After graduating from Stanford Business School in 2011, Kate cofounded DITTO.com, an ecommerce site selling designer sunglasses and eyewear which features cutting edge new “try-on” technology.