Strongbark has launched the first private social shopping network, a platform where shoppers share deals and discounts directly with their closest friends. With more than 6,500 retailers and 80,000-plus offers available daily, Strongbark users can shop using keywords or categories to find any product or service.
Co-founders Les Teichner and David Beazley felt that online social shopping and sharing experiences were too compromising, because just by browsing, shoppers were consciously or unconsciously sharing their information online, leading to pesky advertisements and offers. Similarly, they felt social networking was tainted by "oversharing" and "commercial" posts.
"We then started to notice an undercurrent and overall movement towards content curation and sharing in a more quiet, private environment of just your most trusted friends, and of course a movement towards mobile," said Beazley, CEO of Strongbark. "But one area of content that was left untouched was deals, an essential part of a user's online shopping experience. So we set out to create a quiet, more authentic environment for private deal sharing among your most trusted friends."
Here is how the site works: Users first create a homepage where they can shop and share offers with friends they choose to follow. Users can also follow curated categories like clothing, travel, entertainment, etc., or even specific retailers they love.
"And any offer that is redeemed can then be re-shared by that user, creating virality and the potential for the multiplier effect for the retailer," Beazley said.
Members of Strongbark can also discover retailers by shopping the Barking Lot, an online warehouse of more than 2,500 retailers and more than 75,000 offers. These offers can then be shared using a Bark Button or banked and saved for later. Users can even compete with friends because continued site activity can lead to rewards.
There is no cost to become a member of the site. Strongbark makes a commission when users redeem one of the daily offers.
While consumers reap the monetary benefits from discounts and deals, retailers benefit from referrals and the high-purchase-intent traffic driven to them from private social networks.
Current partners include Amazon, Best Buy, Groupon, Kohl's, Living Social, Macy's, Orbitz, Target, Sephora, Starbucks and Walmart. Beazley said they will soon add local retailers to the mix.
"We built the platform with a friends first mentality, meaning we wanted the constant relationship with your trusted friends at the forefront and your dynamic relationship with retailers secondary," Beazley said.
But not to worry, Beazely said retailers are still at the forefront of the platform. "When retailers partner with us, they truly have a partner. We give them back control. What I mean by that is they can control their own microsite on Strongbark.com. Much like a Facebook page, retailers on our platform have their own page. We give them controls to source the deals they want to feature for users who are following them."
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