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How Social Media is Shaping the Evolution of E-Commerce Web Design

  |  January 14, 2014   |  Comments

Now that billions of users are on social networks, the usability of such sites creates expectations elsewhere online.

For years, web designers have sought for inspiration from as many sources as possible. Skeuomorphism was an attempt to replicate physical objects in the digital space. Designers began paying attention to white-space in an effort to exude cleanliness and refinement. Most recently the flat design trend is aiming to account for highly refined displays that embellish faulty edges and corners.

In 2014, it is becoming quite apparent that social media networks are influencing the way web designers are approaching eCommerce websites. Social media sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr place a heavy focus on imagery and a fluid user experience when browsing content. Such an approach to design is ideal for eCommerce brands hoping to provide more seamless experiences for shoppers.

Leading eCommerce operations like Fancy, Wanelo, and Polyvore are a new breed of shopping site for the social networking age. By assessing each website, it is easy to see how social media has altered how web developers and designers approach the creation of eCommerce websites.

Fancy: Crowdsourced Social eCommerce

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Formerly known as The Fancy, Fancy.com takes a strong influence from Pinterest. Socially curated products with high quality images are central to Fancy's version of eCommerce. Users create profiles, add a Fancy bookmarklet to their toolbar and essentially crowd-source product suggestions.

Regardless of the brand or website, users can ‘Fancy' a product page for any item and introduce that product into the Fancy product stream. Fancy shoppers can also ‘like' or up-vote products allowing for viral trends. A user's feed is also updated according to their interaction history to deliver personalized recommendations. Fancy is primarily discovery fueled. Rather than search, click, and browse through countless web pages dedicated to just one item, users can scroll through a never-ending feed of products without leaving the homepage.

In the same way that Amazon 1-Click and same-day delivery made it seamless for shoppers to purchase products, Fancy's socially curated browsing experience is paving the way for a new means to approach eCommerce websites.

Wanelo: Discovery Fueled Social Shopping

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Similar to Fancy, Wanelo draws heavily on the Pinterest styled, image-laden grid layout. As soon as a user visits Wanelo.com, they arrive at a well-designed socially curated product feed. A major differentiation rests with the like, save, and share buttons accompanying product images. There is also the prevalence of store profiles alongside individual users. Urban Outfitters for instance has over 2 million followers on Wanelo (greater than their Facebook and Twitter audience).

Wanelo also recently introduced content stories for users and stores, who can create stories about a specific product they suggest. This aligns directly with social media sites such as Tumblr, which incorporates heavy visuals along with intriguing written content.

Deena Varshavskaya described the mission of Wanelo as, "building a meta-layer on top of eCommerce... to bring them [the consumer] into an interconnected network." In the same way that Twitter and Facebook disrupted the way people sift through news and other media, Wanelo hopes to be a similar remedy for eCommerce.

Polyvore: Magazine Collages Go Digital

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Although not as prolific as Wanelo and Fancy, Polyvore uses an interesting take on eCommerce. Rather than depend on a product feed for discovering great finds, users browse through a digital collage or ‘Set' of products. Stores or individual users create the equivalent of online magazine cutout collages.

After assembling a set of similar products under a ‘Set', for instance a Sherlock Holmes theme (which includes a trench coat, cigarette holder, magnifying glass and a rustic leather laptop case), tags are placed on the image thus linking to a purchase page. The Polyvore experience is reminiscent of shoppers assembling a wish list of various magazine pictures for dresses, shoes and other items.

Whereas many eCommerce brands are influenced solely by Pinterest, Polyvore deserves credit for taking a unique approach. While Polyvore does use a similar grid layout to display the collages, the idea of tagging multiple products in a single image stands out.

Amazon: Another Follower of Pinterest

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Even the certified leaders in eCommerce are taking cues from successful social media sites. Amazon Collections is clearly derived from the Pinterest board. Users collect their favorite products and create a curated board of Amazon products.

eBay: Keeping Up With the Times

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eBay's homepage is also exhibiting signs of the Pinterest effect. Upon arrival to the site, a user can simply scroll down the page to see a product feed of trending items and curated product groups (similar to Polyvore ‘Sets'). The sets are also curated by EBay users, and the site uses a similar content feature to that of Wanelo for detailing products in a deeper fashion.

Social Forced eCommerce to Evolve

When it comes to eCommerce web development, the ultimate goal is to make browsing and buying as seamless and intuitive as possible. Businesses must embrace innovation in order to disrupt markets.

Now that billions of users are on social networks, the usability of such sites creates expectations elsewhere online. By incorporating social media design aspects within an eCommerce site, brands can appeal to today's social media savvy audience.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Himanshu Sareen

Himanshu is responsible for the strategic and overall business development of Icreon. He founded Icreon in 2000 and grew the company through a mix of acquisitions and organic growth. Under Himanshu's leadership, Icreon has grown to become a leading IT consultancy in its space working with some of the world's largest and most influential brands including National Geographic Channel, Fox, PepsiCo, Nokia Siemens Networks, and more.

A strong business-informed technologist, Himanshu has directed Icreon's heady growth through diverse economic climates, dot-com booms and busts, by maintaining a long-term view on relationships, keeping a close eye on the data and business dashboard, and by enabling informed decision-making. Himanshu is a natural entrepreneur. His first encounter with entrepreneurship was a comic rental business at the age of 13. Other ventures he started and exited successfully included an ERP consulting firm, an education-training institute, and a real estate trading business. He has also been as a technology advisor to boards of non-profits and SMBs in New York and globally.

Himanshu is part of the Owners and Presidents Program of Harvard Business School. He received his MBA in international business from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. Aside from his work and family, Himanshu is passionate about keeping up with the latest technology trends, physical fitness, and supporting entrepreneurship and the tech community.

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