Social Shopping Attracting Attention and Money

Social commerce startups attract over US$ 1.93 billion in funding in the first trimester of 2011(Jan-April), to mention a few, Shopsocial(social shopping/rewards, US$ 1.2m by Metamorphic Ventures, Jan 14), Virtue(facebook commerce, $17m by Scale Venture Partners and Advent Venture Partners, Feb 18), Lockerz(social shopping/rewards, $30m, Apr 12) and StylistPick(social shopping/rewards, $8m by Accel Partners and Index Ventures, Apr 12).

Social shopping initiatives seem on a roll beginning early this year, which explains the reason why more and more entrepreneurs are plunging into the waterfront around the world, and China is of no exception.

As we mentioned before, based around Taobao there’re some social shopping offerings which targeting female users (mostly) with online shopping experience sharing, items sharing and recommendations features that facilitate transactions out on Taobao, thus they can take a cut from per buying as referrer. Shanghai-based Duitang, founded late last year by former Alibaba staff is amongst them.

Items sharing and Discovering over Shopping Sharing

After four months of private tests, Duitang opened for registration this February. According to Zhang Juan, a Duitang staff, the latest addition to Chinese social commerce arena values highly the quality of early-adopters, hoping to accumulate appropriate community atmosphere before aggressive march.

The concept of social commerce was first raised by Yahoo! in late 2005, according to the American portal, social commerce involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction and user contributions, to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services, i.e., social commerce is the use of social media in the context of e-commerce, which means first and foremost, social commerce sites utilize or even act as social media.

Duitang seems to have deeper and distinctive insights into social shopping and unique approach to its website offerings. According to Duitang team, although there’re many competitors like Meilishuo, Mogujie out there, they have different product offerings due to diverse understanding of social shopping.

For Meilishuo and Mogujie, what they advocate is like shopping experience sharing, hence their web products are designed and developed around such concept. While for Duitang, the team told me that they’re focus on items sharing and discovering rather than shopping experience sharing. They started with shopping sharing, but later on switched to the items-sharing model in hopes of facilitating a social network build upon users’ interests.

Interested Based Community

When asked about how to compete with other competitors and to rise to the challenge brought up by Taobao’s new offers on social ecommerce given that Taobao itself is sort of like the soil for social ecommerce, Duitang said that in there would be various social shopping sites and communities which are different in terms of orientation, targeted audience and style. Because essentially interests and fashion are personalized and diversified. It’s hard for people to find out the right stuff on websites, that’s when Duitang comes to rescue, to help the right people come across the stuff that fit and that they will in love with.

As for business model and revenue sources, Duitang said that currently they’re more focusing on the product renovation and community operation. And later on they’ll sort out the most appropriate revenue model under the premise that user experience is not interfered. Traditionally Alibaba or Taobao is the widely acknowledged operation-driven company. So for the Duitang team which is mainly formed by ex-Alibaba staff, we think it’s not a question for them to positively cultivate the community to the right direction – interests-based social shopping site with a touch of items sharing and discovering.

Listener of startups, writer on tech. Maker of things, dreamer by choice.

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