How Amazon Needs to Get Social

The news came out yesterday that Google search will soon be including results from its Google Plus network. This is pretty huge if you think about it. It means that when I search for a book, for example, I’ll be presented with something a friend of mine said about that book 3 months ago, or maybe even yesterday. Google has already done a great job making the search results relevant to me, but this is another huge step in the right direction towards really relevant searches.

It got me thinking, though, about how Amazon needs to incorporate a social element to the online shopping experience. Consider Amazon reviews–they’re the best thing in the world, right? More often than not, a decision on whether to buy one product over another comes down to the reviews.

But not all the reviews are accurate. The sheer volume of reviews helps to mitigate this problem, but the problem is still there. Like the guy who gives a product 1 star because he had a bad shipping experience–something that has absolutely nothing to do with the product itself.

Imagine if you could build trust circles, or trust groups within Amazon–a group of people whose opinion you trust around a certain topic. Like a group of people whose opinion you trust about books, or technology, or art. Maybe this list of friends gets pulled from Facebook, or maybe it comes from Google+. Or maybe Amazon builds their own social network, allowing people to connect with other friends on Amazon (and easily share books via the Kindle).

Now imagine you’re looking at a product page, and see that the product has an average rating of 3.5 stars from all users. Not bad. But then you can tweak the 5-star rating to only include those reviews by people in one of your trusted circles or groups. Now the average goes up to 4 stars, and the reviews you are reading are by people you trust. Assuming you’ve chosen your circles or groups wisely, you can be confident that the reviews are more relevant to your tastes, likes and dislikes.

The Amazon rating system could be so much more if they could bring a social element to it. Right now, shopping on Amazon feels like I’m in my own little world, but I think the future of online shopping will be a very social experience.

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