June 13, 2008, 12:00 AM

Web 2.0 puts the social back in shopping, expert says

Shoppers don’t rely on ads and sales clerks to help them make buying decisions, they rely on other shoppers, Dave Friedman president, central region, for marketing firm Avenue A/Razorfish said this week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

Shoppers today don’t rely on advertisements and salespeople to help them make purchasing decisions, they rely on other shoppers, Dave Friedman president, central region, for design and digital marketing firm Avenue A/Razorfish said this week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. Web 2.0 technology is the perfect medium to help retailers offer the interaction consumers crave and drive more sales, he said.

78% of respondents to a recent survey say word-of-mouth is the top source of information in their product decisions, 84% of consumers with annual incomes of more than $150,000 use product reviews when making purchases, and 91% of mothers say the recommendations of other moms are key factors in their buying decisions, Friedman said.

Leveraging Web 2.0 technologies by marketing via social sites such as Facebook and MySpace, posting blogs and by incorporating product ratings and reviews on e-commerce sites can help shoppers feel like they are part of a community and bring them closer to a brand, Friedman said during his presentation, “Web 2.0: A Reality Check.”

“Ratings and reviews are becoming a central part of how people are making purchasing decisions and it helps them more actively engage with the products and services retailers sell,” Friedman said.

Many e-retailers are successfully reaching out to customers while they are on web sites they use often, such as Facebook or MySpace, rather than trying to drive shoppers to e-retail sites. And, oftentimes the strategy is cheap.

For example, if a Facebook member becomes a “fan” of a particular retailer, the user’s friends can see that on the consumer’s page, creating free publicity. Or, if a retailer creates its own Facebook page, it allows customers to talk about products, share tips and hear about new items and promotions within the shopper’s own social community. Retailers also can post reviews and feedback from customers on their social network pages, turning customers into marketers.

“Go out where they are and you can turn customers into advocates of your products,” Friedman advised retailers. “Web 2.0 is putting the social back into shopping, It allows shoppers to share, communicate and connect the way they would when walking around the mall.”

Some e-retailers are building entire businesses around interactive Web 2.0 strategies, Friedman said. Threadless, a Chicago-based T-shirt company, allows designers to create and submit ideas for shirts. Visitors vote on the best design and the winning T-shirt is sold on the e-commerce site. “It brought their product design costs down to virtually zero and helped them determine that a product was going to be successful and was actually going to sell before it launched,” Friedman said. Levi’s ran a similar voting campaign tied to the TV show Project Runway, Friedman said.

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