Social Commerce: shopping in the virtual mall

Alex von Harsdorf and his team make it possible: No one has to shop online alone anymore. With Groupify, they have created a social commerce platform that makes shopping together in online shops possible.

LEAD: Alex, how did the idea of ​​Groupify come about?

Alex von Harsdorf: I’ve been working as a music manager in the music industry for ten years and have always been passionate about innovative business concepts. As a music manager, I eventually came up with the idea that music fans could buy tickets together and that this could also be a win-win situation for ticket vendors. Working together in a team, we have recognized the much bigger problem: regardless of whether you order tickets online or buy clothes – you are always alone.

LEAD: Online shopping is a pretty lonely business?

Alex: Exactly – but we are currently online everywhere with friends and colleagues networked. Figuratively speaking: Online we are alone in the shopping mall. You do not even see who else is shopping, who your part might also like or what advice your friends would give you when shopping.


LEAD: In the online shop, the purchase process is in the foreground, less the experience.

Alex: Exactly. All online shops are completely focused on buying, the practical procurement of things. The shops act according to the motto of little distraction, from the product to the shopping cart and the cash register. It’s like optimized offline shopping. But: The topic of shopping, strolling with friends, deliberating, finding inspiration and, above all, having fun, is totally ignored. And here our company starts Groupify. We have the clear vision of the virtual shopping mall that I enter with my favorite shopping partners.

LEAD: How does Groupify work?

Alex: As a customer, you can start groups directly on the websites of participating online shops. Then a link will be created to invite friends via Whatsapp and Messenger. As soon as the group is established, all members can join in the online shopping and exchange. There is also a communication feed where shopping can be discussed. On the other hand, online shops get a social layer from us, so that the group members can see each other during purchasing processes and share products together.

LEAD:Are there any other benefits?

Alex: Our participating online stores like to give discounts to groups, because inviting friends is also an advertisement for the shop and they save on marketing costs. In the long term, of course, the idea is to make group orders in order to relieve the burden on the environment and to be able to split payments. It would also be cool if our customers could eventually browse from shop to shop and shop like in a real mall. At the moment there is still one group per shop.

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“Asia is easy for us in terms of e-commerce around five to six years ahead”

LEAD: How many shops are included?

Alex: We are close to three digits and there are about 25 to 30 shops per month. Among them are Otto, Wormland and Baur. To date, more than 200,000 shopping groups have been started and currently there are 2,000 new ones per day.

LEAD: In Asia, such social commerce concepts are widespread. Why are we Europeans so far behind?

Alex: Asia is easily five to six years ahead of us when it comes to e-commerce. That’s because E-Commerce came up with Ebay and Amazon in the 90s. Both platforms were still invented on desktop computers with modems, and to be honest: On this technical foundation are still many online shops until today. A great development is not observed here. In Asia, on the other hand, e-commerce has only become established in recent years, but the foundation has already been laid on smartphones and mobile surfing. The e-commerce figures in Asia and China in particular put everything in the shade. Here we really have to act according to the motto “Look East” and orient ourselves towards the Far East.

LEAD: Pinduoduo is an app in Asia that can be seen as a best practice example of social commerce?

Alex: Exactly, here one can join forces and make common orders. The goal we have at Groupify too. Our two big puzzle pieces are similar to the Asian app: Social Discovering and Group Deals. Once our members should be able to ask their friends in the group for the opinion before they buy the product, and at best save on joint shopping trips even a lot.

LEAD: Are the online shops really that generous in terms of discounts?

Alex: Clear. As a rule, our shops give the groups an introductory discount to get started. For long-term thinking, rewards chains work, for example, “if you shop for $ 200 over the next four weeks, you’ll get a cashback,” or “if you increase your group, there’s an extra discount.” That can be spun endlessly. Also, the most active group in the quarter, then, for example, could get a trip. Here, online shops can spin real campaigns, we also think of influencer marketing.

LEAD:How could influencer campaigns look like?

Alex: One possibility would be for an influencer to start a group, pick his favorite pieces and invite followers. Who is in the group receives discounts. The participating online shops can therefore consider Groupify actions, which we then implement together with them.

LEAD: And hand on heart: how do you earn money with it?

Alex: The online shops are our customers who pay us monthly and thus get a new marketing channel. For group members everything is free, we do not switch between ads.

LEAD: Can you say something to the target group?

Alex: The typical Groupify users are people who live together. Couples, families or shared apartments or work colleagues. People who are close to each other and exchange ideas about their purchases. But we also have bigger groups like tour groups or sports clubs, who order products together.

LEAD: Instagram also wants to conquer the online shopping market and launch an app-internal shop function. What are you thinking about that?

Alex: I think the move is exciting and I think the idea of ​​Instagram has its raison d’être, especially in fashion, beauty and lifestyle. However, the social aspect of the Instagram shopping idea is neglected, even though it is a social network. In my opinion, Instagram shoots very close to the customer need here.

LEAD:Because maybe I do not want to share all my purchases with my followers?

Alex: Right. Especially on Facebook or Instagram we are followed by different people and not everyone wants to share their shopping spree. It is therefore all the more important that in the social commerce area you can clearly define who you are networking with for shopping. During our research, we also found out that if we go shopping together, there are groups like friends or families or mother and daughter.

LEAD: Is social commerce becoming more important?

Alex: We definitely notice that we open doors with the topic. I am sure that in the coming months and years we will be dealing more and more with social commerce – already driven by the development from Asia.

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