‘Squad shopping’ gaining ground in the U.S.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the phrase “squad shopping,” it is definitely something you should be thinking about for the retail industry as the implementation of social commerce gains an increasingly stronger footing in the U.S. consumer’s typical behaviors.

Vogue Business posted an article this week that covers ‘the rise of squad shopping’ that prompted me to write about the impact that this concept can have on the world of retail. In short, “squad shopping” is the act of shopping online with friends, specifically all interacting with products on the same platform.

That platform did not exist in the U.S. (despite there being many, incredibly popular platforms in Asia) until now. Hence, I introduce Squadded Shopping Party, which is a browser extension that allows friends to shop together on (as of now) four different major fashion e-commerce websites. Users can interact with each other and the entire Squadded community to discover new products or get opinions on potential products for purchase.

I, of course, got myself set up on Squadded and worked with a friend to get her set up as well so that I could test out the concept. Getting set up is not difficult, but it is incredibly tedious and unnecessarily time-consuming. More on that later, though.

Once you have Squadded up and running, you can invite friends to join your personal “squad,” where you can send different products, polls, or messages directly to them or you can opt to interact with the “community,” which is a feed of activity following everyone who has Squadded set up.

Squadded has made the act of getting an opinion on an item much simpler than it was. Whenever I needed an opinion from a friend my options were to send them screenshots of a product or to send them individual links to different products for an opinion. With Squadded, you can post the product to your feed and anyone in your network can share their opinions or vote between two products. You can also create a layout of four pictures which you can use to share entire outfit ideas.

Interacting with strangers via a browser extension may seem daunting or awkward, but it’s very similar to just browsing your “favorites” feed on Instagram or following a subreddit on reddit. The best parts of this feature are that you can get unbiased opinions, you can discover new products or outfit inspirations, and you’re interacting with a group of people who truly care about shopping and specifically fashion for now. In a time when human connection is very limited, it was nice to see how others were spending their time browsing the ASOS website and finding products that I would probably never find myself due to the mass inventory that ASOS has.

The opinions of both friends and strangers when shopping in a physical store can so easily influence our purchasing decisions, which is why “squad shopping” has so much potential for how American consumers behave when shopping online. Those who are weary about making purchases online can now find comfort in the opinions of others while browsing through a website, similar to asking for opinions or recommendations from people in a store.

This is all a baby step toward social commerce for the U.S. but it is a baby step with huge potential. Imagine if within your Squadded feed you could see videos of people reviewing products that they have bought that you were interested in, eliminating the need to either scroll through product reviews on a website or look up review videos on Youtube. Or, imagine that you could be on a video call with your friends while being able to virtually try on different products (I’m thinking, for example, a Zoom with your friends as you all use the virtual try-on tool from Warby Parker to see how different glasses look on everyone and to recommend different styles to your friends all while being able to just do so from Warby Parker’s website). HUGE potential here for the future of e-commerce when physical retailing seems so uncertain.

My only complaint so far with Squadded is how time-consuming and tedious the setup process is. First, you have to go to Squadded’s website in order to install the browser extension. After you do that, you have to sign in using Google (if you don’t have a google account I’m not entirely sure how you get set up). Next, you have to add your friends by sending them a link to Squadded’s website and after that they have to go through the whole process of installing the extension and logging in. And then, you might assume that because you sent your friend the link that they would automatically now be your friend. Nope, you then have to search for your friend’s name and invite them into your squad. There just has to be a simpler way, right?

And there is a simpler way, it’s just not possible yet in the U.S. A major difference in terms of social commerce and its development and popularity between Asian countries and Western countries is that the West is not connected on a universal platform such as WeChat. If we were all on WeChat here, we could all probably install Squadded and then automatically be connected to our friends or those with similar interests, skipping the whole “signing in” process and invitation process.

Maybe someday, America. But, overall, I think that this is an amazing step toward what may become the new “normal” way of shopping.

Published by Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin is a passionate student of the retail industry. Freshly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Retail Merchandising, she will be pursuing an M.S. in Apparel Studies with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies in fall 2020. Career ambitions include writing a formal research paper, becoming a retail writer and reporter, and maybe being a CEO someday.

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