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Online shopping communities are no longer just for consumers; retailers want to move in too. Online shopping communities, like Shopstyle.com and Thisnext.com, consist of consumers who post pictures and discuss their favorite clothing finds.

However, part of what these consumers like about the sites is that they are “untainted” by retailers, so they can discover what others like and don’t like, rather than what a retailer is pushing. When involved in these communities, consumers buy more than they would otherwise. Furthermore, in addition to the ease of shopping online, these sites offer recommendations by others, which may be just enough to encourage a shopper to make a purchase.

What happens when retailers get involved on these sites? Some communities allow moderate involvement. For example, Lisa Kline and Ron Herman boutiques inLos Angeleshost pages on Stylehive.com featuring some outfits they sell. In virtual worlds such as Secondlife.com and The Sims, companies create stores in which customers can buy clothing. The online shopping communities then receive click-through revenue, or a percentage of the purchase made through the retailer’s site.

As a result, online apparel sales and accessories have surpassed sales of computer gear. “Social shopping” greatly contributes to this trend; whereas standard computer products have sold online for years, apparel remains quite arbitrary when it comes to size and fit.

Finally, online shopping communities offer a sort of stylist service for consumers. When a shopper admires the style of another online member, he or she can follow that member’s hints and purchases to find the trends or styles that he or she likes best.

Discussion Questions:

1. What untraditional venues are retailers using to promote their stores and products?

2. Do you think these venues would have a stronger influence on your purchase intentions than traditional media like advertising?

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, “‘That’s So You! Just Click Here to Buy It’,” The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2007.