ThisNext, an online "social shopping" service focused on design and boutique-like products, has acquired online style property Stylehive and established a new parent company, Curatemedia.
This is not the only recent example of consolidation in social shopping. Less than two weeks ago, Time Inc. acquired personal shopping engine StyleFeeder on behalf of its celebrity and style brand, InStyle. Coupled with broad attention on social media, these moves could signify the time is ripe for an evolution in e-commerce.
In addition to ThisNext and Stylehive, Santa Monica, CA-based CurateMedia plans to launch or acquire additional verticals in categories like sports/outdoors, gadget/tech, eco/green and parenting/kids, said President and CEO Scott Morrow. It will fund that growth in part through a new Series C investment round.
"The business strategy is to operate a portal of social shopping properties that are vertically focused," he said.
CurateMedia will continue to operate the brands as separate entities. With the acquisition, Stylehive CEO Michael Carrier has left the company.
The Curatemedia announcement comes on the heels of Time Inc.'s acquisition of StyleFeeder, a shopping engine that uses pattern recognition technology and members' style preferences to make recommendations on behalf of retailers. What's more, social shopping site Kaboodle, which was acquired by Hearst in 2007, recently relaunched its site with a new product discovery engine.
Morrow argues the new wave of social shopping services are best equipped to promote "soft goods" like blouses, clocks, and strollers - products that are more reflective of personal values and are bought based on emotion and impulse.
However Clay McDaniel, a principal at interactive marketing firm Spring Creek Group, does not agree that the maturation of social shopping is imminent. He said many e-commerce site managers have determined shoppers aren't interested in folding friends and family into personal purchase decisions.
He said, "Recognizing that single-user Web browsing is still the norm, e-commerce site managers have chosen to focus on improving solo shopping online rather than social shopping, because they know they can measure and garner a return on investment by improving these capabilities."
McDaniel also believes the "social" part of social shopping is more difficult to get right than vendors in the space will let on.
"It's much, much harder to create or enable a synchronous, real-time, meaningful, and satisfying shared shopping experience on the Web with anything that even closely approximates what a real world social shopping experience is like," McDaniel says.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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