Social shopping is a nut that no one has been able to crack. The idea sounds good; people enjoy shopping together in malls and such. But online, there have been many attempts, and many failures. Plurchase, a Y Combinator-backed company, is the latest to take on the task.
Obviously, Plurchase thinks it has what it takes to succeed in the space with a new method of doing things. In the past, social shopping sites have either required you to have a browser plug-in to converse with friends while on shopping sites, or they have been entirely new sites that everyone had to go to. Plurchase simply offers a social overlay to the sites you already use, and makes it easy to invite friends to join you.
Say you want to shop for something on Zappos, you visit Plurchase’s site then hit the button to take you to Zappos. You will see the Zappos site just as you normally would, but with the addition of a Plurchase panel on the right hand side of your web browser. On this panel you will see your buddy list of other Plurchase users, which includes what sites they are currently shopping on. There’s also a link to invite other friends to join you in shopping with Plurchase via email. And below that is a chat area to talk to your online friends as you shop.
If you find an item you like while shopping and want to show a friend, you can bookmark the item and leave a comment. You can also note whether you “like” it, “dislike” it, or note that it’s “cool.” Your friends can do this as well. Anytime you bookmark an item, it shows up in the chat area with a link, so your online friends will see it and can see what you’re looking at.
And if you hook up Plurchase through Facebook Connect, you can also ask you Facebook friends what they think about items by sending them to your Facebook page.
One interesting thing about Plurchase is that although the site just has Zappos, Amazon, and Craigslist integration right now, the plan is to eventually roll it out to all the big online retailers. And when that happens, you will be able to chat with friends while you’re shopping at Zappos even if they’re shopping somewhere else, like Amazon.
The core idea behind Plurchase is that while online retailers are great at selling items, creating their own social integration won’t work well because it is limited to just that one site. “We see Plurchase as part of a broader trend: the distribution of social features across all types of websites,” Saffell notes. He’s written more about that idea here.
The plan is to extend Plurchase’s social feature to include Twitter integration soon as well, we’re told.