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ShopSocially focuses on retailers with new offering “SocialConnect”

(Pune-based Startup ShopSocially, whose launch was covered on PuneTech last year has recently been in the news again for their launch of SocialConnect, a product for online retailers to easily add social shopping features to their existing e-commerce site. Suneetha talked to Samir Palnitkar and Sunil Arora of ShopSocially, and this article starts with an overview of ShopSocially (again), and then goes on to their latest offerings, and future plans.)

Buying a camera or a laptop and looking for some advice? Referrals seem to be taking over shopping decisions now more than ever, and the web is a key player in this activity. It’s this concept that ShopSocially has leveraged successfully by integrating the concepts of online shopping and facebook. Samir Palnitkar and Sunil Arora talk about how ShopSocially has come on the online social shopping map. Samir Palnitkar, an alumnus of IIT-Kanpur, is the President of ShopSocially and Sunil Arora, an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur is a Founding Member who now looks after the technology aspects of the company.

Sam says it all started with a thought about harnessing social networking. Jai Rawat (CEO of ShopSocially) had spent several years in the ecommerce and online shopping space. As social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter were becoming popular, Jai realized that social recommendations via Facebook and Twitter would become a key traffic and revenue driver for e-commerce. These thoughts were the foundation behind ShopSocially. In the offline space, we tend to consult friends before making a buying decision. Why not do the same in the online space? That led to the idea behind ShopSocially set up in 2009.

You just need to register a free account with ShopSocially and shoot your shopping questions or declare your impressions on the platform. Why waste countless hours researching stuff and reading anonymous reviews? Of course, this works best when you have lots of ShopSocially Friends. Your Facebook friends automatically become your ShopSocially Friends when they join in. You can also earn badges or become ‘Shopping Gods’ depending on the intensity and frequency of your activity.

And how does it work for a retailer?

“Retailers can integrate with ShopSocially’s social commerce platform to harness the tremendous power of social recommendations. ShopSocially helps turn every purchase into a conversation and a social endorsement driving significant ‘friend referred’ traffic back to the retailer site. Retailers can get 2% to 6.5% incremental sales by integrating with the ShopSocially platform.”

ShopSocially has evolved quite a lot its model. It started off as an end-user site. Then they realized that the ShopSocially platform was highly attractive for retailers who wanted to socially enable their websites. So they launched Social Connect, to allow retailers to easily plug in to the ShopSocially platform. SocialConnect allows the retailer to add social features into the existing e-commerce platforms. Specifically, after a customer has purchased something, they are encouraged to share this purchase with their facebook friends (i.e. recommend this item to their other friends).

In addition, ShopSocially also automatically creates a new “Shoppers” tab on the company’s facebook fan page, where website where prospective customers can check whether any of their existing facebook friends have bought anything from this merchant, and if yes, what they’ve been buying, and what the reviews are.

ShopSocially started working with retailers in a fixed fee model but soon realized that it was easier for retailers to work with a performance-based or a subscription-based model; so quickly changed their pricing to meet the needs of retailers. Samir quotes an experience here. “We were thrilled when one of our retailers saw an increase of nearly $1 million in revenues per year by integrating with the ShopSocially solution.”

By now, I was getting convinced that it was all limited to the web user, but no, ShopSocially is already seeing beyond that parameter. Samir tells me that ShopSocially is as relevant for a customer outside the web precincts. “Yes. Social recommendation is how we buy most of our products, whether online or offline. In the near future, ShopSocially plans to bring product sharing to mobile devices. That will allow shoppers to share offline purchases with friends.”

So what about India specific plans? Sunil Arora says “In the next few months, we will be rolling out our solution in India. We expect retailers to embrace ShopSocially really quickly. Currently, ShopSocially is the only company in the world that offers a comprehensive social commerce suite for retailers. There are other competitors, but no company offers a suite that integrates with the most common user touch points, order confirmation page, Facebook FAN page and order confirmation email. Check this out here http://shopsocially.com/partners

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter create a convenient way for shoppers to share their purchases with friends. Social networks have made sharing simple. While ShopSocially uses other media such as Google and Email, Facebook and Twitter play an important part in the ShopSocially strategy. Technology wise, ShopSocially has an exceptionally talented team that has built a world class platform on some of the best technologies in the world, including MongoDB, Redis, Celeryd, Python, Ajax, Javascript and others.

So what is the future map?

“ShopSocially will continue to add other social components that benefit retailers. These components will increase sharing and drive incremental traffic to retailer sites. Another dimension is integration with popular shopping carts such as Magento, Shopify and osCommerce. ShopSocially will continue to make integration simpler by offering pre-integrated plug-ins for various shopping carts. We feel that ShopSocially has the opportunity to become a global billion dollar company. We do not need a large team (maybe < 100 people), but we will continue to handpick the brightest minds to work on the exciting problems that we are solving daily.”

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