News buys into group shopping

February 3, 2011 12:21 PM Inc. has bought a company that that enables online consumers to shop with friends. With the acquisition of DecisionStep Inc., hopes to make online shopping more like shopping inside bricks-and-mortar stores. did not say how much it paid for the company, which developed the ShopTogether social shopping application.  The acquisition is powering’s  ShopTogether Community, through which consumers can interact with other shoppers on the site.

ShopTogether enables shoppers to engage with fellow consumers via e-mail, an on-site instant messaging system, Facebook Connect, Twitter and other social networks. Using the tool, consumers can browse products together and redirect friends, with their permission, to product pages.

Shoppers who sign into the site using their Facebook credentials can see which of their friends are available to chat with via the instant messenger;  a toolbox on the right side of the screen shows the photos and names of all the shopper’s Facebook friends.

When the consumer clicks on an online friend’s photo, that friend receives the following message: “Click here to shop with me on You can shop with your friends just like you're in the store together! Get a second opinion or just have fun shopping with your friends on Log into Facebook on to see which friends are online now."

Shoppers who use the feature in a beta test spent significantly more time on the site and had a higher conversion rate, says Neel Grover, president and CEO of, No. 32 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. He declines to disclose specific figures, but offers a simple explanation for the gains : “This takes shopping from a solitary experience and makes it more social.”

Grover says the retailer has been developing a social shopping feature for the site for nearly two years, starting the project internally before co-developing the tool with DecisionStep. After testing the feature, decided to acquire the company.

ShopTogether is used by such retailers as Mattel, Foot Locker and Charlotte Russe, and plans to keep offering the tool to other retailers. says ShopTogether will also be integrated into the white-label marketplace that offers to deploy on the e-commerce sites of other retailers.

To entice shoppers to use ShopTogether, will highlight special offers in the feature’s toolbox.

“We’re looking to drive engagement,” Grover says. “But already, in the early testing we’re seeing nice engagement. I think that’s because we sell more than 9.5 million products, many of which are expensive, and if you want to make a big-ticket purchase, you want to check with your friends to make sure you’re getting the right product.”




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