September 8, 2008, 12:00 AM

New social shopping network lets shoppers turn to friends for advice

TurnTo links friends who shop on the same e-commerce sites. E-retailers implement widget technology on their sites that enables shoppers to see what their friends bought and ask them for opinions.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

 

It’s one thing to read customer reviews of a product written by numerous strangers. It’s another to get recommendations and feedback from friends.

That is the premise behind TurnTo, a new social shopping network from TurnTo Networks Inc. If a friend of a shopper has made purchases on an e-commerce site, TurnTo enables the shopper to see a list of the products his friend has purchased. Then, if he desires, he can click to e-mail or instant message the friend through one click, asking that friend for feedback on a product.

An e-retailer implements the network via a widget on its home page, where the widget appears as a small icon with text enticing a shoppers to see if they have friends who shop the site. Clicking on the icon displays a window where TurnTo members can log in or shoppers new to the social shopping network can create an account. Once logged in, members of the free network can manage their profiles and see a list of friends in the TurnTo network who have shopped the site and what they have purchased. Members can suppress individual products from their lists.

The widget technology behind the network enables members to interface with their Yahoo, Outlook, Facebook and other e-mail and social network accounts, importing friends’ names and e-mail addresses into their TurnTo accounts. Members then can send e-mail messages inviting friends to join TurnTo, or label friends with “Share,” which does not send an invite but authorizes the marked friends to see the members’ shopping information if they join TurnTo on their own.

TurnTo launches this week online at jeweler Angara Inc., computer and electronics merchant CompSource Inc., travel site The Earthwatch Institute, and tea specialty site Teavana Corp. TurnTo Networks says four more e-retailers will launch its widget by the end of the month, with more to come in the months ahead.

The retailers are promoting the TurnTo widget and encouraging shoppers to join through prominent placement of the widget icon on their home pages and through marketing copy in post-purchase e-mails. E-retailers pay TurnTo Networks a percentage of purchases made by members who buy products after having clicked through to a product page from a friend’s product list.

“TurnTo makes the CompSource experience even better by enabling shoppers to leverage the knowledge in their social networks-all without ever leaving our site,” says Dean Bellone, president of CompSource, No. 412 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. “By telling shoppers when their friends have purchased from us, TurnTo gives those shoppers the confidence to buy from CompSource, too.”

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