MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - December 16, 2010) - (Family Features) When it comes to holiday shopping, do you prefer to pound the pavement or surf the Web? If you're one of the millions who shop online, there's a new twist to e-commerce you might enjoy: it's called social shopping.

Social shopping combines the two greatest strengths of the Web: the power to find and compare vast amounts of information, and the ability to connect people. The Internet is a great way to find out from your friends and others what to buy, and where, for the right price. After all, shopping can be even more fun when it's social.

Cyber-buyers are predicted to spend over $51 billion dollars during the last few months of 2010, but a new report from American Express shows that online shoppers are looking for more than just convenience -- they want to add a social aspect to what is usually a solitary experience.

What Kind of Social Shopper are You?
Social shoppers use networking services and sites to find and share their purchases. If you're interested in becoming a social shopper, it's helpful to know what kinds of sites are out there. Social shopping sites can be generally grouped into three basic categories: shopping communities, recommendation engines and group shopping sites.

  • Shopping communities are where people who share common interests (such as those found on "mommy sites") gather information about prices, products and special deals, and then discuss, trade information and shop.
  • Recommendation engines let shoppers get advice from other shoppers and encourage them to share these reviews with other people they know.
  • Group shopping sites let people buy together at wholesale prices, or they offer coupons and discounts to a large group of buyers.

One social shopping site that combines many of these elements is Cheep (www.getcheep.com). Cheep is a free browser add-on that sits atop your Web page. As you shop for particular products (electronics, clothing, books, etc.), the tool searches a database of more than 200 retailers to provide you with a list of accurate, real-time prices and where to find them. Once you join, you also have access to an online community of savvy shoppers. You can:

  • Share your shopping activities in real time.
  • See accurate price comparisons to help you find the best deal.
  • Read real-time reviews and ratings.
  • Pass on your great finds to the Cheep community.

If you're doing some holiday shopping and want to give and get tips on the latest deals or helpful advice from experts and people you know, then social shopping just might be for you.