Kaboodle's Chief Marketing Officer Talks Social Shopping [Interview]

Kaboodle is the leading social shopping site on the web with more than 1.2 million users engaging with over 10 million products. We had the opportunity to sit down with Shari Gunn, Chief Marketing Officer of Kaboodle, to discuss Kaboodle's unique approach to cultivating a community of shoppers and empowering the consumer.

Kaboodle is the leading social shopping site on the web with more than 1.2 million users engaging with over 10 million products. At its foundation, Kaboodle is a place where you can add products from anywhere on the internet to the shopping and whishlists on Kaboodle. It was one of the pioneers in the social shopping industry, and has grown tremendously over the past few years.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Shari Gunn, Chief Marketing Officer of Kaboodle, to discuss Kaboodle’s unique approach to cultivating a community of shoppers and empowering the consumer.

Can you briefly describe the social elements users will encounter when shopping on Kaboodle?

Everything on Kaboodle potentially has a social element. Everything can be shared – how this happens is up to the user.

There are three basic ways that users can engage socially on Kaboodle:

  • Through the ability to add products from anywhere on the net. With a browser addon “Add to Kaboodle” button installed, users can add any product from anywhere on the web to Kaboodle. No more unwieldly bookmarks, emailed links and sticky note reminders of products. From a pure utility perspective this is incredibly valuable to online shoppers.
  • Then, Kaboodle becomes inherently a social experience. Kaboodle tries to bring the best of the real-world social shopping experience online in a meaningful way. For instance, when you add a product, everyone you’re connected to within the Kaboodle community can see what products you’re adding in their “recent activity feed”.
  • The third piece of the social puzzle is branching out and bringing a ton of different tools and content to the individual shoppers on the site. People can make lists, comment on each other’s lists, rate lists using hearts, write blog posts, and use a poll tool called “help me choose” to tap into friends and the community at large. They can also share all of this on Facebook to get their friends’ opinions. And finally, there are style boards, like online collage building tools, that allow users to mashup products from various sources online to create a look.

Kaboodle encourages its users to express their style and make connections with one another within the Kaboodle community. It is also a product discovery facilitator, through the social connections that arise between people within this niche interest-based community.

I’d love to hear about Kaboodle’s wishlists. How do they encourage product discovery and purchase? What is especially social about them?

The wishlists are the central building block of Kaboodle, along with the “Add to Kaboodle” button.

Wishlists facilitate product discovery. Users see the activity of their friends in the recent activity newsfeed – where they are shopping, what products they buy, etc. It’s a natural, viral connection at this point. But even for browsers of the site there is a social element, as our rich catalog of products is completely socially driven. Everything you see on Kaboodle has been added by individual shoppers, not by merchants. So the wishlists represent this social element.

What sets Kaboodle apart from other social shopping services?

The whole shopping experience on Kaboodle is curated by the more than 1.2 million users – they are like mini-editors who comb through retail sites every day and add their favorites that they find to Kaboodle. It is essentially a social catalog of products that isn’t represented anywhere else on the internet.

We take tremendous pride in the community we’ve built; not just the size, but the culture of it. Even in a digital environment it has developed its own voice and tone, the members are personable and accepting, inclusive and supportive.

Also, because of Kaboodle’s size and length of time in the social shopping space, its reach is significantly larger than our competitors. We can address consumer needs, which gives them a deeper, richer experience. This reach and size also becomes a distinct advantage to our partners in advertising.

How has Kaboodle responded to Facebook and other social networks?

We are getting as creative as we can on the Facebook API. We were a fairly early site to use Facebook Connect, and we are constantly adding new Facebook functionality like a recent social plugin that allows users to share a poll with their Facebook friends. We are also expanding our presence to Twitter.

One of the recent evolutions we’ve undergone to respond to the consumer-powered social shopping phenomenon is our recently launched Pop Picks. Consumers can vote on products they want to see offered on a discount. We basically crowdsource deals, and let people exert their influence as a group.

If you could look into the future, what do you see in store for social shopping?

Moving forward from a business perspective, I see that there is going to be some consolidation. There are so many companies that have emerged lately, and we’ll definitely see some consolidation – the group buying space is a great example.

The door has also been opened for some compelling ways to engage people at the local level, as well as through multiple platforms like mobile and tablets.

From the consumer side, there is an irreversible shift in terms of power to the consumer, and that will never go back to the merchants or brands. Consumers drive the shopping process more now than ever before. There is a movement now – the democratization of style. It’s no longer celebrities, magazine editors and socialites who lead the way. New media has given anyone the tools they need to brand themselves as a style maven.