In the study "Social Shopping: How Technology Is Reshaping the Consumer Experience in Apparel Retailing," we explore several emergent social interaction applications that are beginning to reshape the customer experience in the retail apparel industry.
One of the major problems that online retailers face is that consumers typically visit retail websites for the express purpose of making a specific purchase, but do not engage in the "social shopping" activities that occur in physical stores, which historically lead to the greater purchasing practices. New social shopping applications have the potential to solve this problem by being able to re-create the inherently social aspects of real-world shopping and drive more typical mall purchasing behavior.
The timing for these applications may be just right as today's youth already show an apparently high level of comfort with technology and with sharing personal information online on existing social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace.
This paper looks at four distinct types of social shopping applications in the apparel retail market. The first type, examples of which are often referred to as "virtual worlds," allows members to interact and shop within online re-creations of real physical spaces, such as streets and shopping malls. The second allows consumers to try on apparel merchandise and share the look with others without putting the clothes on their bodies or, in some cases, even stepping foot inside a store. The third type of application includes web communities that facilitate ratings and advice on apparel-related topics, thereby generating sales. Finally, we investigate weblogs that directly enable or influence apparel purchase.
(l. to r.) M. Eric Johnson, CDS Director; Aaron Cohn T'07; and Juliane Park T'07