I reviewed social shopping site Tribesmart last month and, though it needs to add more users and products to become a valuable resource, it is a well designed and very usable site.

The site was set up by Wayne Robbins and Michael Pratt, who also run digital agency Iconography. I talked to Wayne to find out a bit more…

Why did you decide to launch Tribesmart?

We have been following news on various entrepreneurial websites about the growing trend for social shopping, and think that it will be something that will catch on with a wider audience. Aside from Kaboodle.com, there aren’t any major players, so there is still plenty of room in the market for new sites.

How would you describe social shopping?

The basis for this is user generated content, and it is about people with an interest and passion about products writing about them and helping others to discover them. People can discover reviews and information about products free from the kind of marketing spin that is typical of many normal e-commerce sites.
We think that this approach can level the playing field and allow more unusual products or specialist products from smaller niche retailers to get more exposure.

For instance, an independent retailer can use Tribesmart to demonstrate their intimate knowledge and experience, perhaps they may stock specialist mountain bikes, and can offer something which shoppers may be unable to find on a mainstream retailer’s website. 

We want to harness the knowledge that independents and smaller retailers often have about their products.

How many of the products on the site are submitted by users?

In order to get enough on the site to make it worthwhile to look through, we have added products through affiliates, but about 50% of products are submitted and reviewed by our users.

How does Tribesmart differ from other comparison sites?

Rather than simply listing as many products as possible and comparing prices, we want to provide more of a platform for people who really know their stuff about the products, and ultimately to provide more worthwhile and trustworthy reviews on the site.

There is a real opportunity here to create a strong community around the site and the products and provide a valuable resource for shoppers.

We also want to focus more on smaller retailers than some other comparison sites do. We have spoken to the Confederation of Independent Retailers about this, and want to encourage them to get involved online and get more exposure for their products and business.

Do you think there are problems with reviews on retailers’ websites?

I think reviews can lack credibility if they are on a website associated with a retailer, there can be a trust issue, as retailers have a vested interest in promoting the product they are offering.  Some retailers do this better than others and display negative and well as positive reviews, but there is still an issue of trust.

Also, on e-commerce sites, retailers only offer reviews for the products they stock, so shoppers get a limited snapshot of what is available.
There is also the issue of the amount of anonymous reviews on offer, which makes it difficult for people to decide whether to rely on them.

I previously mentioned the lack of a search box on the homepage, is this why you have now added one?

Yes, we didn’t want to ignore good advice, and have seen plenty of activity in the search box since we added it.  We are open to feedback on the site; it would be arrogant to assume that we have done everything right first time.

We will listen to users of the site, take note of the features and activity which is most popular and see how Tribesmart evolves. It will go in the direction that people take it.

How many users do you have?

It’s early yet; we are getting a few thousand visitors a week, but sessions typically last 6 minutes or more, which is encouraging.

What  product areas are attracting most reviewers?

Mainly technology and fashion so far. On the fashion side, we have had interest from a few small boutique owners keen to showcase their clothes, which is a direction we are happy with. We want more unusual products, rather than replicating a standard e-commerce store.

How are you planning to grow the Tribesmart’s userbase?

There isn’t much of a marketing budget on offer for Tribesmart, so we are trying to use social media to get the site noticed. We have created a Facebook app for this, and we also seek to spread the word on sites like this, and through word of mouth.

How will you make money from the site?

This will be from affiliate marketing deals with merchants displaying products on the site, as well as Google AdSense and banner advertising on the site.  

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