Shopping 3.0 In A Web 2.0 World

For centuries, companies, manufacturers, distributors, marketers and ad gurus told consumers why they should buy a product. As social media becomes more and more mainstream, this dictum is being turned on its head. With knowledge about everything just a click away, now consumers have the power of choice like never before.

Brand ambassadors and product evangelists--who are now common folk--wield momentous influence. As we live on- and offline (mostly on) and discover new products, the product graph has become the single most important link in the purchasing chain.

The Product Graph

Technologies that harness information about purchasing predilections are fundamental to marketing activities as they retrieve the data that a user leaves in their wake and then guess which ad the user will find relevant. This technology, however, cannot tell us which products will actually incite action from consumers. The question should be: how can consumers discover products (or brands/companies) that fit their unique tastes? and not how can data be used to tell consumers what products they want/need?

Shopping is a social experience where people actively recommend products and brands to their family, friends and co-workers. The Internet is the great equalizer where influencers spread their gospel through communities that focus on recreating shopping's social experience. The social shopping trend is changing the way we interact with and how we discover products--and it all stems from the product graph.

The product graph is an additional filter--on top of the social graph--that concentrates on the connections between users and products. In other words, the product graph represents the cross-section of a social network, connecting people to products, products to products, and products to tastemakers. It turns online shopping into a discovery experience instead of a search, click, and purchase experience. The product graph helps users locate products across multiple categories, while simultaneously influencing purchasing decisions based on recommendations from people with similar tastes and buying habits.

Connecting Products to People

The online shopping universe continues to grow, offering infinite products. This crowded marketplace means that advertisers and brands must find new ways of attracting consumers.

For example, Mr. X is hunting for distinctive jewelry for his wife. He spends time online locating what he thinks is the right bracelet--nly to find out that his wife has better taste in jewelry than he does (read: she didn't like it). If Mr. X was a member of an online community that employs a product graph, he'd ask those community members who appear to have the same taste as his wife for a recommendation, leading him to hard-to-find products. In other words, the product graph offers a win-win for Mr. and Mrs. X.

Connecting Products to Products

Innumerable sites are devoted to rating, reviewing and recommending products, and this information helps consumers find the product best for them. The product graph not only aggregates this data, but also provides consumers with the means to find products related to their initial query, ones they didn't even know they were seeking.

Let's go back to Mr. X, who recently bought a house and needs kitchen utensils. He shopped online for a particular knife and along the way, became aware of Kasper Organics' Electric Mocha Soap, a product that removes onion odors from hands. Normally, this esoteric item would never come up while searching for knives. By employing a product graph on a community-based site, recommendations for these unique products filter to the top. The product graph, with its data set, drives sales and awareness of niche products.

Connecting People to People

We know that social networks carry an intrinsic value because users connect in ways that cannot happen offline. People who use social shopping sites enjoy recommending products to people, which connects others who share similar tastes. As we continue this trajectory, the product graph connects people to tastemakers--those who are early adopters and trendsetters.

Why is this important? Nothing happens in a vacuum. Tastemakers are the first people to find, use and discuss a product. This means that for the gurus mentioned above, they have an already built-in focus group--impress the tastemakers and watch how word of mouth works.

Bridging Web 2.0 to Web 3.0

The product graph is a map of who consumers listen to and what merchandise they find useful. It is a necessary filter for the future of social networks, especially as the cloud of information that surrounds consumers becomes intertwined with their activities.

Consumers crave information, and the product graph aggregates the best-of-the-Web, relaying this valuable information to its audience. As the "social networking economy" continues to mature, the product graph will take center stage as the link between online shopping in Web 2.0 and ecommerce in Web 3.0.

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