A new service that lets shoppers share their purchases with friends online makes its official debut today, entering an intersection between social media and ecommerce that is loaded with potential as well as uncertainty. Swipely.com is now open to all users in the U.S. after three months of beta testing, and already works with all major credit and debit cards and more than 6,000 ecommerce retailers that import receipts through email.
The service is free for consumers, requiring a quick and secure sign-up process that includes creating a profile and selecting friends to follow. Shoppers can automatically share information about what they are buying, from whom and at what locations by choosing which of their swipes will go out to friends. Privacy settings ensure that purchase amounts are not among the details shared, but users can rate and review their swipes, add photos and enter specific details from catalogs and menus at more than 250,000 retail and restaurant locations.
Swipes can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter and can reveal geolocation data of more than 14 million business addresses. Swipely offers social rewards and recognizes specific businesses' most loyal customers with badges and leader boards, and is working with retailers and brands to expand future savings opportunities for users. Merchants interested in participating in the program are encouraged to visit the Swipely site.
Swipely's launch comes the day after Facebook's geolocation service Places was announced, and two days after startup company Shopkick launched its iPhone app that lets shoppers "check-in" to participating retail locations simply by having the app open when they enter a store (participating retailers are equipped with a signal box inside the store's entrance). Three weeks earlier, Amazon and Facebook teamed up to make shopping more social by allowing users to provide automatic product recommendations based on "likes" and "favorites" available on the social graph.
There's no question that a growing percentage of consumers enjoy having the ability to share information about their purchasing decisions, the question that Swipely and others have to answer accurately in order to become successful in this space is exactly how much information is appropriate. Three months ago, the similar service Blippy encountered a security glitch that allowed some users' credit card information to appear in Google search results, doing no favors to Swipely and others entering the market.
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