06/11/12 | Uncategorized

What Is The Problem With Shopping?

The data science-driven approaches that work are actually rooted in social context. Wanelo links products, stores and people in a single network.

By Deena Varshavskaya (Founder & CEO, Wanelo)

Human beings are fundamentally social. We’re born into a rich set of cultural notions that range from when it’s appropriate to yawn to our definitions of success. Our ideas and notions are deeply rooted in social dynamics developed over thousands of years and are specific to this cultural moment in time. We literally make sense of our entire lives through the social context of everything around us.

When we look at a piece of content, we want to know who created it, who likes or hates it, who uses it and so on. The social context around content is a critical source of information about that content and most of us are expert decoders of it.

Increasingly insane amounts of content are being produced and made available online. So the question is, how do we know which of this content to consume and which to ignore. At a high level, there are two ways this problem could be solved: through social context and social shortcuts or through data science. The data science-driven approaches that work are actually rooted in social context (such as Google’s PageRank which relies on people’s decisions to link to particular content, where a link to content is treated as a vote on the value of that content).

So, really, all we have is social context to solve this problem. Without social context, there can be no relevance. And we’re seeing this in play everywhere. People don’t want content in a vacuum; they want content in social context. I don’t go to news sites directly; I get content through the about 230 people I follow on Twitter. The entire web is being increasingly reorganized around people.

Here’s the current taxonomy of the social web:

  • Facebook is for friends
  • Twitter is for news
  • Pinterest is for images
  • YouTube is for videos
  • SoundCloud is for sound
  • __________ is for shopping

That’s right. Commerce (specifically the trade of products), which is one of the most important aspects of the global economy is the one area today that’s really lacking social context. Most of our shopping happens on ecommerce websites where all we get is the retailer’s information about the product (how old school!). Sure, we occasionally get some reviews, mostly from people we don’t know (i.e. we don’t have the social context around these people), but we don’t yet have a platform that tells us what products and stores specific people like (friends or others) and we don’t have a platform that links products, stores and people in a single network.

This is what Wanelo is building. Our goal is to reorganize all of shopping around people and the opportunity we’re after is tremendous. I feel very lucky to be recently supported by an incredible group of investors and advisors who share our vision and to be working with the most amazing team. We have a lot to build and I’m psyched about the next few months.

This post was originally posted at Siberian Fruit.

About the guest blogger: Deena Varshavskaya is the Founder and CEO of Wanelo. Deena’s background is in product and experience design. Prior to Wanelo, she created Dynamik Interactive, a user experience design agency that worked with Fortune 500 clients like Nickelodeon, Disney, Toyota and Fox. She blogs as siberianfruit and studied Psychology, Computer Science and Film Studies at Cornell University. Follow her on Twitter at @siberianfruit.

Anne-Gail Moreland

Anne-Gail Moreland

Anne-Gail Moreland, an intern with Women 2.0, was on the StartupBus. She studies neuroscience at Mount Holyoke College, where she is trying to merge a passion for tech and the brain into a new wave of cognition-based technology

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