The new Facebook application is the brainchid of Jason Wolter, who I had a chance to talk with last week about this new product. After seven years in the high fashion and retail industry, Wolter decided that there needed to be a better social experience for shopping. He wants to create a better way for people to show the world each other what they’re thinking of buying and to get opinions from people with similar interests.
Enter SoapBox, a new community for social shoppers.
The basic premise is that people are already doing a lot of their shopping online, but don’t necessarily shell out the money for every item they’re interested in. If you’re considering a purchase, but not yet sure about it, you can add the item to your SoapBox. Wolter calls it a “closet of things you’re interested in getting.”
To demonstrate, I decided to add an item I’ve been thinking about buying for a few days: the latest album by one of my favorite electronic artists, Matthew Dear. The first step is to click the “Add Product” tab within the SoapBox application, which takes you to the following screen:
Some people might look at this and shudder at having to fill out a few fields just to add an item, but the tiny bit of work really seems worth it in the long run. Plus, it means that the inventory on SoapBox is limited only by the desires of its users.
SoapBox will save all the data for you, including the original price you saw for the product and a link to the actual page to make the purchase. Perhaps the most important field, however, is the “Get feedback on this item” field. This is where users can personalize the item entry, maybe to ask a question about the product or to say, “Hey guys! This is what I want for my birthday!”
In terms of my Matthew Dear album, I was wondering if I should get the vinyl version, so that’s what I put in the feedback field. When I finished filling out the fields and added the item, it instantly appeared on my profile and my friends' news feeds.
One little blurb presents to my friends the title of the product, a picture, and my request for feedback. Conveniently enough, I received my answer within a few seconds from a very enthusiastic friend (the one who originally introduced me to Matthew Dear). It was at the moment I received that comment that I was convinced SoapBox could prove to be an immensely powerful social shopping tool.
The trick for Wolter and his team is picking up a substantial number of users, which will need to happen naturally, if it happens at all.
This basic set of functionality I've just described is only the inital foundation for SoapBox, which also includes a Twitter-like “follow” feature, profiles (where you name your favorite brands and genres), and more.
Wolter says the SoapBox iPhone app, which will allow you to interact with merchandise directly at retail outlets, should launch sometime later this month. Beyond that, Wolter has even more plans for SoapBox, including a loyalty trading cad program, a Foursquare-like badge/rewards system, and even new ways of sharing trips and events with friends.
It’s a cool new Facebook application that’s sure to grow a lot in the next few months, so I’ll be keeping my eye on it.