RealTime IT News

Buy.com Makes Buy

Online retailer Buy.com has acquired Metails, a site that combines affiliate marketing with social networking.

Neel Grover, president of Buy.com, said his company wants Metails for its patent-pending technology, which combines e-commerce with social networking, as well as to extend Buy.com's customer base of young, tech-savvy consumers.

"We think that personalized individual affiliates are the next wave, and that's encompassed in social networking," Grover said.

Jupiter Research analyst Gary Stein said that applying the concepts of social networking to e-commerce could work well for Buy.com, as did the addition of consumer review site Epinions to Shopping.com. (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are owned by the same corporation.)

"The ability to look and see what other people have said about a product has always been a key feature of e-commerce," Stein said. "It's seen as more genuine and outside of the spin. Metails seems aimed toward teens and that group that likes the aspect of self-expression, communicating to the world what they like," he continued. "Tying that to commerce seems like a good combination."

Metails, a Boston social and shopping network, was founded in 2003. Metails is an attempt to combine social networking and affiliate marketing. Participants are invited to "chit chat about products and trends you like." After they sign up, Metails members can create their own profiles, blogs and networks of friends. They also can add products from the Metails catalog to their profiles and write reviews and recommendations of these products.

Instead of simply searching the Web for product information and reviews, users can instead search their Metails network or the entire Metails database for people who are like them. It's presumed that such reviews will be more relevant.

When a member finds a product via Metails, he or she can select a reviewer to receive a reward of up to 10 percent of the purchase price. Money for the reward is part of the affiliate marketing commission received by Metails, which is an affiliate of about 50 retailers.

Buy.com, which sells some two million products through its portal, as well as through an affiliate marketing program, allows non-competing retailers space on its site, acting as a super-affiliate for those retailers. In April, it reported that revenue contributed by affiliates had grown 20 percent year over year, and it was on track to continue to grow at that rate.

Grover said that Metails will be renamed and incorporated into Buy.com later this year. Once Metails is integrated into Buy.com, shoppers also will share in the reward, receiving a discount of between 2 and 10 percent for purchasing products through the site.

While it would be possible for Metails members to focus too much on the marketing, shilling for products simply to get rewards, Stein doubted this would be a problem. "I think instead people will broadcast their style and hope to get rewarded for it," he said. "Everyone imagines themselves as being an influencer. This is a way to channel that."