September 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

TurnTo network letting shoppers tap friends for product advice

The TurnTo network, accessible through a widget on a retailer’s home page, lets shoppers see what products friends have purchased at the site, then contact them for feedback on the products.

Word of mouth has always been a driver of sales in the offline world-a concept that social shopping applications are taking to the next level on retail sites. One of the newest is from technology vendor TurnTo Networks Inc. The TurnTo network, accessible through a widget on a retailer’s home page, lets shoppers see what products friends have purchased at the site, and contact them for feedback on the products.

The TurnTo widget appears on a retailer site’s home page as a small icon. Clicking on it opens a window where TurnTo members log in or shoppers new to TurnTo create an account. When logged in, members of the free network can manage their profiles and see a list of friends who have shopped the site and what they purchased.

The widget lets TurnTo members import friends’ contact information from their Yahoo, Outlook, Facebook and other e-mail and social network accounts. Members can then send e-mail messages inviting those contacts to join TurnTo, or they can label a contact as “Share,” which sends no invitation to join but does authorize marked friends to see the member’s shopping information if they join TurnTo on their own.

TurnTo launched with four online retailers-jeweler Angara Inc., CompuSource Inc., travel site The Earthwatch Institute and tea merchant Teavana Inc. By the end of September, TurnTo Networks expected the application to be live on at least four additional retail sites.

“TurnTo makes the CompuSource experience even better by enabling shoppers to leverage the knowledge of their social networks-all without ever leaving our site,” says Dean Bellone, president of CompuSource, one of the first e-retailers to launch the application when it debuted in September. “By telling shoppers when their friends have purchased from us, TurnTo gives those shoppers the confidence to buy from CompuSource, too.”

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

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