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Social shopping networks are a form of shopping in which the experience is shared with friends and other online acquaintances, who offer recommendations or critiques of products and services.

Social shopping uses the technology and format of social media networking to augment the user's online and in-store shopping experiences. While early forms of social shopping were necessarily focused on e-commerce, the common use of smartphones and other mobile devices has extended social shopping to brick-and-mortar stores, as well.

There are various types of social shopping sites. Some encourage buyers to buy in groups in order to avail themselves of bulk discounts. Others include elements of a product review site, where people recommend or discourage others from buying products they have tried. There are also niche shopping communities in which users buy products directly from one another.

Social shopping sites are the natural extension of people researching products on the Internet prior to making a purchase. Most Americans view the Internet as their most trusted source of shopping information, and peer-to-peer recommendations are particularly credible.

Social shopping networks differ from product review networks in that their function is to facilitate sales. The networks might generate revenue from advertising and click-throughs, as well as through the sharing of information about their users with retailers. Users are motivated through a sense of give and take, where they benefit from the recommendations of other users, while they give something in return. However, some social shopping networks offer financial incentives in the form of gift cards, and others include users who are themselves offering products for sale through the network.

As in other social networks, users of shopping networks usually set up profiles, and may follow other users who they may know personally, or whose recommendations they particularly value. There may also be chat rooms, discussion forums, or other interactive features. They might also be able to upload photos, video, and other media.

The focus of this category is on social shopping networks.



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