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Social Shopping Brings Peer Review to the Web

shoppingcartsLet’s say you are using Google to try to find an interesting gift for your niece, and you come across an incredibly cute zip-up hoodie. Besides whipping out the old plastic to buy it, you could email the page to your 10 best friends, or even easier, you could “tag it” on one of the many new social shopping web sites, letting thousands of other shoppers know about your great find.

Congratulations, you have joined the ranks of social shoppers. New sites like stylehive , this next, stylefeeder, and uncrate, are inviting contributors to join a collaborative shopping experience, sharing the hottest new products and the coolest new stores. You can use some of these sites to create a gift list and share it with other family members, or find the best shops in a new city. Unlike the web sites that give you comparison pricing, these sites are all about the get – finding the newest must-have product. A competitive personality might easily become addicted to being the first to find the most (somewhat like the addicted reviewers over at Amazon).

Ultimately, the greatest value of these social viewcarticonshopping sites may be as personal knowledge management tools. You register at the site and set up gift lists and wish lists. Your spouse goes to the site to see what you want for your birthday, or family members can review some options you have selected for your parents’ golden wedding anniversary. This ability to share information with others seems to be a fast growing trend on the web -- witness the explosive growth of youtube, digg, and del.icio.us.

Many social shoppers come back again and again for the communal sensation, while some work at it for the thrill of being a good finder. Stylehive features some of their taggers with a picture and a brief description of their specialty (e.g. Name: Zazou; geezermailcheckTag: baby; A stylish mom finds the “just perfect” gifts for newborns.). Many of these taggers are measured by how prolific they are, as their total number of posts is displayed and an overall score based on the popularity of their posted tags. You begin to wonder if you could get sucked into a giant social shopping vortex and never come out.

If shopping has anything in common with hunting it might be the urge to hunt in a pack. Even if you’re home alone, as long as you have broadband internet access, you can hunt with the pack for the next must-have. And after you’ve made your “kill,” you can discuss it with your shopping buddies or tag it to mark your territory. What could be more civilized?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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