Malls in Virginia and Nevada have launched a social shopping site to drive online shoppers to their local retailers. The website, shoptopia.com, bridges the gap between online and traditional brick and mortar stores, said John Dee, president of Mallfinder Network LLC, a company based in Denver that develops and hosts websites and manages email marketing campaigns.
It created Shoptopia in partnership with Forest City Commercial Management Inc., owner and operator of the malls where the site made its debut this week. They are Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, VA and Galleria at Sunset in Henderson, NV.
The site works like other social networks. Users create a profile and personalize their shopping preferences. Then they have the option to search, collect and organize favorite products with Shoptopia "Lists," share information with family and friends in the Talk section, and interact with retailers in categories, including women's and men's fashion, kids, gadgets, home, and health & beauty.
An optional Shoptopia "Bag It!" button, which can be installed to a web browser toolbar, allows users to add things to their Shoptopia lists from anywhere on the web. There's no charge to either the consumer or the retailer to use Shoptopia. However, Dee hopes to monetize the site by selling ads to retailers.
The portal connects shoppers with retailers by merging the convenience of online shopping with, "The fun and excitement of an in-store shopping experience," Dee explained. "It's a gathering point, a place for people to interact."
It's also a potential way to keep online shopping from draining business from traditional stores. Dee said Shoptopia is a way for brick and mortar retailers to turn online shopping from competition to a partnership.
Through the website, online users have access to a community of fellow shoppers to share tools, expertise and product reviews and potentially receive discounts and incentives for the brick and mortar retail locations at their local mall. Dee pointed to statistics showing that 75 percent of consumers prefer to move from online to brick and mortar locations if they have the option of using more than one channel to shop for goods.
"We launched Shoptopia to meet the needs of these consumers and to connect them directly with brands and products available locally," he added.
Jane Lisy, VP of marketing for Forest City Commercial Management, says her company partnered with Mallfinder because it, "Embraces the technological preferences," of its shoppers. "Shoptopia is one more step in combining the power of technology and exciting destination shopping," she said.
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