For Tampa business owner Greg Mesaros, "social shopping" is a win for online buyers and sellers.
His software company, eWinWin, develops Web applications to help online merchants promote social shopping, a practice of consulting with other shoppers before, during and after making a purchase.
On a social shopping platform, when several buyers consult to buy the same product online, the price automatically goes down — creating happy shoppers excited about the discount and happy sellers who want to move their inventory.
The idea will drive research by a University of South Florida professor, Balaji Padmanabhan, who was recently awarded a $100,000 grant to study online social buying. It's being funded by eWinWin and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council.
EWinWin's latest social shopping tool will be available for free download next month at eWinWin.com.
Mesaros encourages breaking from conventional pricing and allowing buyers to shop online in groups. He spoke with the St. Petersburg Times about how social buying can transform the digital purchasing experience.
How can sellers use buying power to their advantage?
We've seen groups that will literally go re-educate their friends — like, here is a fantastic tofu or lard or whatever it may be — and that passion actually works through the network. You're able to get people excited. So if you're a seller of that product, think about what the benefit is to you if you have these passionate "prosumers" out there somewhere saying, "I believe in this product. I put my own reputation at stake to say this is a fantastic buy, and if you buy with me, we'll actually get a better price."
What is a prosumer and how do you become one?
A prosumer is someone who orders from you and immediately is so enamored with the product, the combination of the product and price, the company and what the company stands for. They say, "You know what? I am going to take my Web page and go ahead, and I am going to put your solution or your offer on my product page or home page." And so when someone does that, they have gone from "I'm consuming a product one time" to "I'm consuming a product and now I'm going to put it on my site and tell my friends."
How has the emergence of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter changed the social shopping landscape?
Well, you have greater price transparency than ever before. People are more educated about products, options, prices, so the consumer is far more educated now than any other time. And that's exciting because what that means is that they've done their homework. They've done their research. Now is the question of delivering to them a value proposition that they feel compelled enough to buy and tell others.
One of the challenges with social buying is that a consumer may only buy a one-time product like a soccer ball. How do you get people to continually buy socially?
You want to pick the right products. Certain products make the most sense. Certainly a product that's consumable. Certainly a product where the buyers are very price sensitive. Certainly a product that buyers don't have to worry about whether they will have space to store it. So the ability to say, "You know what, this is a really good price. Maybe I'll up my order."
Where do you expect to see social shopping in the next five to 10 years?
Imagine the ability to say, "What is my price available for this item if I were to purchase it alone vs. going out and buying it in a group, and what's the price differential? And do I want to take the time to wait?" Maybe I'll say I really don't want to wait five days for a 45-inch television to save $50, but I will be an informed consumer.
Nicole Norfleet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8785.