I've been spending a good chunk of time evaluating the Social Shopping space. Some of it is based off of my recent experience speaking at Shop.org for their Online Marketing Workshop, and some of it is based on a personal passion to try and help online retailers better understand the balance between immediate click conversion balanced with the power of building community.
Currently, the slew of Social Shopping sites are places to rate, evaluate and discuss products - without the direct interference of the brand. The future of Social Shopping is much more exciting.
In its current form, companies like Amazon deal on a one-to-one model: an individual makes a purchase and Amazon must fulfill that individual sales. Imagine a wiki-driven environment where, say, Seth Godin fans can meet up and self-organize to buy his latest book, The Dip. If I were Amazon, I would be interested in selling several thousand books through that one wiki page as opposed to hunting down each individual acquisition. I would even be willing to offer the group a preferred price (maybe even one that gets sweeter based on how many books can be purchased).
We are already hearing similar Social Shopping stories coming out of Europe, where groups of individuals are setting up wikis for a specific brand, creating a mass-generated wish list and then holding real-life Tupperware-like parties when the box of goods arrives. They are leveraging the wiki to buy directly from the manufacturer.
Social Shopping's future is the ability for a self-organized group to do much more than just the purchase. It's the opportunity to buy in bulk, connect directly with the brand and build friendships with individuals who have like-minded interests.
A quick diagnostics of how far online social networking has come in the past few years is an indication of where Social Shopping is headed in the very-near-future. If we're currently doing it to find other like-minded people who have similar interests, what makes you think we would not do the same thing to find others who are similar to us in terms of our commercial interests_ especially if the price becomes more attractive as the social shopping network grows.
Check out this article for more insights: E-Commerce Times - Solo Hunters, Social Gatherers And The Online Marketplace.