As I head into Napa Valley for a July 4th wine country excursion, my mind wonders about what CellarTracker teaches us (see last post). What it teaches us is how shopping for products is no longer just a transaction; it is a social experience.
The new norm on shopping websites is that shoppers expect not just good prices and good usability, but also great recommendation, a community of other like-minded shoppers. And in 'niche' markets such as wine geeks, users want social recommendations and to interact with other people's opinions. Of course, expert opinions like Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate are still taken seriously, but community opinions are aggregated and reported. For example, CellarTracker shows what are the most popular wine producers in the community by bottle holding, as well as all of the wine tasting notes that are made public (for example, on this amazing producer Domaine Tempier).
As mentioned in WebGuild, a report by Guidance and Synovate showed that online shoppers are drawn to social web features on shopping sites. "online commerce is now a two-way street - and retailers need to embrace that reality. Online consumers and merchants are in dialogue as never before, and consumers are counting on each other for insights in making purchase decisions." I think these observations and experiences point to new ways forward in online commerce.