Wanelo CEO: we’re going to see a shift in power when it comes to social shopping

Everyone wants to figure out how to use social media for brands to sell more products. But Wanelo CEO Deena Varshavskaya has a broader definition of social shopping that doesn’t just mean tweeting out what you’ve bought after you complete a transaction.

“I think today, we’re still in a world where we have brands telling us what we neeed to know about a brand’s individual products,” she said at the Glimpse social discovery conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “But that’s not always the truth about the product, nor is it what’s interesting to you about that product. So the future will be reversed, where it’s just about the information that’s relevent to you.”

Wanelo is a small but immensely popular social shopping site where users post, like, collect and re-post images of items that are all for sale — the entire value proposition of the site is that you can click through to purchase any of the items. While the site only had 8 million users in May, Varshavskaya said 70 percent of them are coming back to the site every month, and they’re spending an average of 50 minutes a day on Wanelo. And because all of the items posted to Wanelo are selected by its users to be liked and purchased by others, it creates an interesting discovery engine for goods.

As I’ve written before, it’s actually quite a challenge to define what social shopping is. Does it mean tweeting out your purchase after you buy something? Does it mean adding Facebook Connect on a brand’s site to see which of your friends like it too? Does it mean browsing items on Pinterest posted by your friends, or reading reviews from strangers on a site? Or texting photos of a dress to your friends when you’re in a brick and mortar store?

The definition changes depending who you talk to and what kind of shopping experience you’re talking about. (And can be hard for big brands like Zappos to harness, when often people just want fast shipping and a wealth of products.)

“No one really wants to follow other Zappos users,” said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs.

AngelList founder Naval Ravikant, who is an investor in Wanelo and also spoke at Glimpse, pointed out that social validation around products comes in two broad categories: the power of the crowd to surface the best products (think Amazon reviews or topics upvoted on Reddit), versus the power of your friends to influence your tastes and opinions (think Facebook or Twitter friends).

“If I’m buying a stereo or digital camera, I don’t really care what my friends thought. What the qualitified group thinks is good enough,” he said. “But if I’m buying a piece of clothing, sometihng with taste, maybe I do care. The term social almost changes in meaning depending on the situation.”