IMshopping Adds a Human Touch to Online Shopping

With human-powered shopping advice, IMshopping offers benefits for consumers, ad opportunities for retailers—and it’s available on Twitter.

IMshopping is a service that aims to bring a human touch to online shopping.  With the IMshopping social media site, CEO and Founder, Prashant Nedungadi, said the company has created a level of human assistance resulting in a deeper level of e-commerce satisfaction that doesn’t exist on the Internet today.

"There is a lot of information out there, but very little help when online shoppers need specific answers that will make or break a purchasing decision,” said Nedungadi.  “At brick-and-mortar stores, human experts fill such a void, but on the Web, it doesn’t exist.”

The IMshopping service also fills an information void in online shopping. Most shopping sites tend to focus on providing answers to technical-focused questions, not the general shopping and product questions that shoppers submit on the IMshopping Web site.

How it Works for Consumers

IMshopping was developed to bring the same level of personalized assistance to online shoppers that consumers expect to find at brick-and-mortar stores.  On the IMshopping Web site, consumers ask shopping questions, and a staff of human shopping guides answers them.

The Web site offers responses and recommendations to more than 20,000 questions, such as "Can you help me find good men's watches?" and "Where can I find the best iPhone deal?"

For each question asked, a human IMshopping guide or community member provides a brief summary and can also link to products he or she recommends.

Consumers can register on the IMshopping site to save answers and product recommendations in a personal folder that they can browse at a later time. Registered users can also rate the answers provided by the IMshopping guides.

Also, consumers who use Twitter can message @imshopping to submit their shopping questions instead of going to the IMshopping Web site.

IMshopping Opportunities for Retailers

Currently, retailers can join the IMshopping community and answer questions being asked by shoppers. A retailer could recommend their own products or recruit community members to answer questions on his or her behalf.

When promoting your business on a social media platform, industry experts recommend that you be upfront and state that you are the business owner, or an employee of the business being recommended.  On IMshopping a retailer answering questions asked by shoppers could use phrases such as “My Web shop has”, or “I sell a product” in the response to show your affiliation.

Retailers can also capitalize on advertising opportunities by sponsoring IMshopping answers.  This works much the same as sponsored ads on search engines and other Web sites: a shopper might see five answers to their question, with the first response being the sponsored—or paid for—answer from a Web retailer. 

As part of its merchant package, retailers are able to upload an entire catalog to IMshopping and display product images in sponsored answers and recommendations. Creating an account to answer questions and sponsored ads are currently available to online retailers, however the company also expects to launch an additional retail product in the coming months.

This additional merchant opportunity will allow an online retailer to provide the IMshopping experience to customers on its own Web shop.  Nedungadi said the company is currently running several test pilots to provide a shopping guide microsite to individual retailers.  Interested merchants can contact IMShopping to request beta test details.

IMshopping, which is currently in Beta, has just recently raised $4.7m from SK Telecom Ventures in funding, and expects to collect revenues when shoppers purchase recommended products through affiliate links.

Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Vangie Beal is a seasoned online marketplace seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and avid online bargain hunter. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.

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