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How to give the best curated shopping experience

How to give the best curated shopping experience

By Philip Rooke, CEO Spreadshirt

Everyone knows that you can find just about anything you want to buy online. With this power at our fingertips, is there such a thing as too much choice? If you are hunting for a digital camera and you do a Google search for “digital camera buying advice” you will get back more than 800,000 results! This is where the idea of “curated shopping” can step in to help you, or your customers, make a choice.
Curated shopping can also help address some of the inherent shortcomings of online shopping. For instance, you can never be sure that the item you buy online is going to exactly meet your expectations. These ‘hit or miss’ buys happen even though many websites offer “digital showrooms.” Another significant shortcoming for online retailers is that if a customer is unhappy with their choice, they rarely come back. For many years, large marketplaces such as Amazon and iTunes have addressed this issue with their use of customer reviews. However, there is now a growing trend that addresses some of the above and is a bit more convenient for shoppers: "curated shopping".

Keeping the following point sin mind will let retailers avoid some of the pitfalls, while improving the online shopping experience for their customers.
1. Use smart (and social) filters
Keep in mind that factors such as colour, brand or size have long been standard choices of online customers. New and often more critical queries are based on an algorithm of a user's preferences. You can be savvy and harness the power of social media to incorporate a more targeted offer for your online shopper. Take a look at the pioneers of this kind of service such as (acquired by eBay), a platform that makes decisions based on user’s interests. Other retailers, such as Etsy now also feed their ‘gift finder’ with data from social networks allowing buyers to seek out suitable gifts for friends.   
2. Offer personal shoppers with a difference
Modomoto removes the customer from the purchasing decision completely. Here, there is a short style check survey to complete enabling their purchasing consultants to use the customer's preferences to choose items. What you’ve bought, you find out only when you open the package. Often this form of curated shopping is paired with a monthly subscription model and rids the customer completely of the agony of choice overload.
3. Let the community advise
Providers such as Modcloth, Threadless or laFraise decide what is to be included in their collections only after a vote by the community. This minimises the risk that a t-shirt (la Fraise, Threadless) or a fashion line (Modcloth) will not be liked or bought. At the same time the selection process adds an emotional connection with shoppers when the decision is announced.
4. Check out personalised shopping magazines
Pose, Svpply, or The Fancy combine the "collective" detection of interesting products and services through the community with added personal recommendations. This creates a personal shopping magazine.
In conclusion, I find that different curated shopping models take advantage of the principle observed in large marketplaces where "smart filters" are set to narrow product diversity and create ease of choice. Providers distinguish themselves as experts in their niche. Some offer favourite products from people like you and me while others are curated by known bloggers, designers, DJs and musicians. The process is enabling these retailers to engage with their customers and offer a more personalised product or service improving the customer experience which is a move in the right direction.
There is only one thing neither an algorithm nor a style expert can take over - the payment.


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