Word-of-mouth 1993 –  You and your extended family go out shopping for a wedding. You take multiple opinions and buy that gorgeous dress that everybody approves of.

Word-of-mouth 2000 – You buy a mixer and it works great for the next two years. You recommend it to your friend, who, if satisfied with the product, further recommend it to another friend

Word-of-mouth 2015 – You browse online for a cell phone and spot one that you like after watching a video online. You buy the product and tell everyone via Facebook that you have just bought a phone along with a link to it so they can see it for themselves. After receiving your product and loving it, you share a photo of it again on Facebook and tell everyone to get one.

The difference between now and a decade ago, is that it would take a longer time to reach out to people and spread the world as opposed to now, when you can reach several of your friends with a simple share on a social networking site.

When customers share their interactions with their brands amongst their circle, not only are they talking about themselves, but they are also providing perspective of their product through a ripple effect while the brand gains perspective of shopping behavior trends. Symbiotic, isn’t it? Now, you know that it’s not just important to sell your brand, but equally important to facilitate an active passionate discussion of your brand amongst their community.

But how do we get about doing this?

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The key is to enable your visitors identify shoppers just like them, without interrupting their purpose of purchase on your website. As you learn more about them, your website can subtly guide them to content and products that reflect the interests of similar shoppers. For example, an activity indicator can highlight products other visitors are viewing at that moment or have just purchased. And these recommendations can be based on the groups they belong to — shoppers they are socially connected to.  Also, look for ways to bring online customers offline by creating convenient ways to merge social media, online shopping, and local promotions. Then, test these channels in the devices most likely to be used. Jumping quick to the gun, take for example the ping feature from Flipkart – A messaging platform where customers can chat and family members who also can share images and emotions.  Remember my first example when people went shopping together to take opinions on their purchases? This is called collaborative shopping. Looks like they just moved this digital. Simple, yet fantastic? Features like Ping aim to transform shopping from a solo to a collaborative experience by allowing users talk to each other in real time in order to make decision and decide what to buy. Another example is Snapdeal’s Shopo feature which enables peer-to-peer communication in a vernacular language.

Shopclues, in parallel, also has recently added a chat feature ‘Connect’ to enable buyers with sellers in their vicinity negotiate delivery times, ask for details on warranty and returns. Through this feature, customers can also ask for additional product pictures before purchase. They can also send pictures of the product after delivery to ensure swifter grievance resolution in case of any issue. Memoirs is another interesting e-store which tags, classifies and recommends products based on personal interest. This is a convenient, yet efficient way to connect brands and targeted shoppers who are interested in their products and promotions.

Thus, as it all comes down to nurturing relationships with your customers,  it’s all about staying connected 360 degrees and staying at top of their mind. After all, In the end, even though it’s e-commerce, it’s still people interacting with people on the other side of those clicks.

Have you used Ping or Connect? Have you entered a contest based on scanning a special QR code? Share your experiences and thoughts about social shopping in the comments below!