Key takeaways

  • Social shopping sites are satisfying the consumer appetite for co-creation and building customer loyalty.
  • Online retailers are increasingly relying on crowd sourcing to build communities and drive customer engagement.
  • The new digital shopping arena is dominated by retailers focusing on niche offerings.

If the first phase of ecommerce was about making online shopping effortless and convenient, then the second wave is about creating highly personalised social shopping experiences designed to spark customer dialogue and foster co-creation. In the last year, the success of sites such as TheFancy and Fab and the rise of social sharing platforms like Pinterest have shed light on a new type of customer – one intent on taking an active role in the shopping process.

In addition to this, the growth of stalwarts ModCloth and Threadless, as well as new offshoots (such as Shopmylabel), which allow users to create and stock their own online boutiques, point to the ongoing power of crowdsourcing for driving brand awareness, loyalty and customer engagement.

We profile three emerging stars of the new wave of social shopping and examine how they are innovating and differentiating within this disruptive model of retail.


Online retailer Fab combines the allure of the flash sales model with a focus on design-focussed products across various verticals. The members-only site provides customers with access to exclusive finds from the world’s top designers and manufacturers – everything from art and furniture to T-shirts and lampshades.

Fab also recently launched Fab Shops, a powerful feature that allows members to browse products via storefronts built around product categories.

Since launching nine months ago, the members-only shopping site has expanded internationally and counts two billion members, nearly doubling its growth rate since November.

Fab wins its customers by combining high-quality, niche products with the gamification aspects of flash sales, elements which make for a compelling customer experience. Attesting to the success of its business model, the company also recently secured US $105 million in funding from Silicon Valley’s biggest investors.


‘Part store, blog, magazine and wish list’, the Fancy rewards customers for sharing the products they love by offering a 2% cut each time a shopper commits to a purchase.

Pinterest might have scored legions of fans but Fancy has stumbled upon a profitable model for social curation. Describing itself as ‘part store, blog, magazine and wish list’, the New York start-up rewards customers for sharing the products they love by offering a 2% cut each time a shopper commits to a purchase.

The site echoes the magazine-style feel of Pinterest and is highly focused on the user experience – a quality that has seen it attract one million users since launch and 500,000 products ‘fancied’ a day.

“The goal is to evolve the way social commerce operates,” founder Joseph Einhorn said in recent interview with Venturebeat. “We want to reward the users who create value for us by curating their favourite items and helping others to discover great new things.”

The site’s focus on social curation has helped shape a compelling inventory, featuring on-trend products across fashion, lifestyle, design, art and homewares.


Putting the power in the hands of the consumer and tapping into the appetite for co-creation, social shopping sites such as Clothia and ShopMyLablel are by allowing users to build an online closet based on items they already own along with coveted pieces from fashion labels and retailers such as Topshop and ModCloth.

These retailers also encourage users to crowdsource advice on styling outfits and the latest looks – a feature that taps into online retail’s emerging focus on satisfying niches and user-generated content.

“The idea is that you can have a virtual closet where you can upload pictures of things you own and create a wishlist of things all over the web,” said founder Elena Silenak in an interview with The New York Tech Blog.

For sites such as Clothia, crowdsourcing offers a powerful avenue for satisfying customer demand and fostering loyalty. Clothia also incorporates augmented reality technology which enables users to try on a piece of clothing – a feature that replicates the experience of standing in front of the mirror with a garment draped in front of you.

How are you pivoting your business to leverage these new digital trends and meet the needs of the connected consumer?