Web 3.0: Shop.org Summit keynote

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LAS VEGAS - With the holiday season approaching and 2007 quickly coming to a close, retailers and marketers gathered recently at Shop.org's Annual Summit to discuss preparations for ever-changing technologies and an increasingly sophisticated online retailing space. One big trend to watch: prepare for social commerce.

In her keynote, "The Evolution of Customer Experience: 10 Trends You Can't Afford to Miss," Donna Hoffman, chancellor's professor of marketing and co-director of the Sloan Center for Internet Retailing at the University of California, Riverside, addressed the coming Web 3.0 world and what this means to retailers.

"If Web 2.0 was about the consumer having control, then Web 3.0 is about augmenting that control with artificial intelligence," she said.

In her talk, she stressed the top online consumer habits and what they mean for retailers today and in the future. Hoffman suggested social networking sites, virtual worlds and other types of interactive consumer-generated media as locations to look for consumer behavior.

"You need to look at how these networks [have] grown over time and how people use them to communicate, and to look for things to figure out how best to use them," Hoffman added.

This combined with the fact that the Web is measurable, and that content is limitless, gives retailers an unending opportunity to design their sites to make them more engaging to consumers.

"Social shopping sites have the potential to make online shopping much more engaging," she said. "Consumers are spending much more time on these sites."

Move over, search engine optimization; and get ready, social networking optimization, says Hoffman. Retailers will have to prepare for how their sites link to widgets, like eBay has done. The online retail giant lets customers shop from their MySpace pages.

The integration of tools provided for the consumer - under consumer control - is the wave of the future. "Customization has [both] the advantage of being easier to implement and the benefits of consumer control; whereas, personalization is important because, with the wealth of information on the Internet, it is not always easy to find what you are looking for," Hoffman remarked.

Expect user-generated content and professional content to continue to converge. Google Maps enables hotels to place ads and locations, and consumers add photos and profiles of places. In addition, consumers are beginning to mix and match the attributes of their favorite pages. Software, such as Grease Monkey and Microsoft's Popfly, allows customers to take Amazon's great information pages and mix them up with Froogle's great price comparison page.

New things to look for are social shopping sites, such as Style Hive, or even online social networks integrated with the in-store shopping experience. Imagine window-shopping at the touch of a screen that links to an online site, like Ralph Lauren is doing. Or even the possibility of a customer in a dressing room trying on a physical shirt, with her friend recommending a sweater to match, that can be tried on in the mirror by a virtual project over her clothes - recommended by her friend over an online social network.

"Web 2.0 is blurring the lines of the Internet and it gives us a new insight into the customer mind," she said. "If we pair these findings with intelligent software, then we can really give consumers what they want."

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