TheFind – Social Shopping With Facebook Integration

TheFind, the world’s second largest shopping search engine, unveiled an integration with Facebook today which provides a personalized shopping experience. Users who log in to TheFind’ site through Facebook Connect can see the total Like count plus the names and faces of their friends who Like certain stores and brands. These indirect recommendations from friends and the entire Facebook population help users form opinions about companies.

There’s a bigger story here, too. By providing relevant product search results to shoppers it has slowly grown to become the second-largest shopping search site on the web, according to comScore data. It has managed to build a product search business, hooking users by providing long-tail results in Google over the years, even as many startup competitors have foundered. However, social shopping has not taken off on Facebook to the degree that many people expected, as users typically aren’t ready to get out their wallets and make a purchase.

Through Facebook’s Open Graph, TheFind is figuring out what users and their friends like, then complement search results with this information. By joining social features with its existing technology, the company has a promising shot at figuring out the magic combination of search, social and shopping.

TheFind also pulls in a user’s existing Likes of stores and brands from Facebook to show only search results from those companies in a tab called Shop Like Me. This can create a much more efficient shopping experience for users who price check between a few trusted retailers or who strongly prefer products from a selection of favorite brands. Instead of using web search, which produces shopping results from across the price and trendiness spectrum, Shop Like Me helps users hone in on products that fit their style and budget.

Instead of opting to use Instant Personalization, which led to privacy issues and ill will towards partners such as Yelp, TheFind subtly includes the Facebook login button in the corner of their home page. “We didn’t want to suddenly change the whole site” which could alarm those who don’t use Facebook or who have concerns about privacy, says Ron Levi, TheFind’s VP of Product. To further alleviate fears, TheFind has included a link to a privacy explanation wherever names and faces from Facebook are used. If a user wants to state an affinity for a brand or store without sharing it publicly, they can add it the TheFind’s proprietary “My Finds” list instead of liking.

TheFind not only pulls in your Likes from Facebook proper, but from any Open Graph-enabled site. Users can also Like and Unlike brands and stores on TheFind, with feed stories about Likes being published back to Facebook. Users can’t currently Like individual products on the TheFind because the company says that while not every brand or store has implemented The Like Button on their products, most already have a Facebook Page for their company  to which Likes can be assigned.

Julie Bornstein, SVP of e-commerce at popular cosmetics retailer Sephora explains: “the Like button is great on Facebook, but it’s more powerful on TheFind when you’re in a position of shopping – they’ve monetized the Like.” Brands and stores now have an added incentive to start a Facebook Page and accrue Likes, as it will help their products stand out from others on social shopping sites. “Gone are the days of Proctor & Gamble broadcasting mass marketing messages…[now] it’s guerrilla retail” said Levi. The Facebook integration will help companies with large Like counts, but also those with loyal, densely localized fan bases, as others from the area who come across their brand or store will be prone to have friends who Like them.

Currently, Like counts don’t influence the search rank of results on TheFind, but Likes may be integrated into its ranking algorithm in the future. Also forthcoming is a mobile app upgrade which will include the new social functionality. Other major e-commerce sites including Amazon and Urban Outfitters have recently added social features, showing a growing trend. Social recommendations are proving to hold significant sway over purchasing opinions. Sephora’s Bornstein agrees, “how can large numbers of people Liking something be wrong?”