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Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Interview with Jai Rawat, CEO of ShopSocially (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, Sep 25th 2013

Sramana Mitra: For the small retailer category, I like the kind of marketing strategy you are talking about a lot, because there is a problem of being able to generate meaningful content. Let’s say you make an e-mail newsletter – it is not easy for a small retailer to generate an interesting e-mail newsletter on a regular basis.

Jai Rawat: You’d be surprised by the kinds of things people write. They are really passionate buyers who love the content and the brand. I show this to the retailer and say, “This is the content money can’t buy. These are authentic user comments, and they are endorsing your products. Look at the passion they have for you.”

SM: Are you familiar with my Web 3.0 framework?

JR: No.

SM: I have a framework that I published in 2007. I have written about it widely, and it has been widely referenced as well. It is a small equation. Web 3.0 = 4C + P + Vs. The four Cs are Context, Community, Commerce and Content. P is Personalization and Vs is Vertical search. My assessment is that all these factors are converging. Vertical search is very important to run a good commerce site. You have to have a vertical search engine to get your catalog to perform. Personalization is available at the higher ends but not so much at the smaller retail level, so this is not so democratized yet. But content, commerce, and community are converging in context. What you are talking about – the ability of users to generate the content and push that into the community – brings it all together.

JR: And it is in the context of commerce.

SM: It is, so the business model is built in. There is a company I have written about called Jack Threads. They did something very interesting. Jack Threads was a commerce company for men’s fashion. They merged with a content company in men’s fashion, bringing together really high-quality content and commerce as a primary monetization model. Instead of the content site depending on external advertisements, they basically fused content and commerce and used the magazine to market their own content. This was brilliant. I think we should see more of that happening. You are democratizing that to offer a more user-generated angle.

JR: It makes a lot of sense, but at the same time there are only a few companies that can do it.

SM: We used to allow advertisement on our blog – before we started 1M/1M. Now we have switched that off. The only thing that is marketed on our site is the 1M/1M blog. There is no need to clutter the blog up with other people´s advertisements. What is the point of advertising HP on our site? That is a similar decision to what Jack Threads did. I think content as a vehicle of marketing is becoming increasingly important. At the same time, it is not possible for small businesses to generate that caliber of content and to keep users engaged.

JR: Since you talk about personalization, there is another thing we built into the framework as well. What happens when users give permission to our Facebook app to publish the post? We also get access to their demographic profile. We get access to their name, e-mail, gender, geo location, birth date, friend graph, etc. We make this information available to the retailers to personalize on. When they present these modules on the site, they can be personalized using all these targeting options. Within our dashboard we say: “You can target the users depending on their gender, geo location, etc. Let’s see if their birthday is coming up in the next 30 days.” Perhaps retailer see something different and say, “Hey, your birthday is coming up. Here is your special offer.”

We built that personalization engine within our framework, so as we collect the data, if the user visits the site for a second time, we know exactly who this user is, and we allow the website to create targeted messages for him or her. This is built into the framework itself. But clients can change it very easily within our framework depending on who the user is. They can also look at where the user is coming from, for example. If they are coming from an already paid search media, maybe you don’t show them an offer, because you already paid for the click.

SM: Thank you, Jai.

JR: Thank you.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Interview with Jai Rawat, CEO of ShopSocially
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