By  on July 8, 2012

Wisemarkit.com, a new interactive shopping site that soft launched last week to invited users, is aiming to marry multiple e-commerce trends, including providing users sales commissions via affiliate programs; gaming, and harnessing the power of social networks to generate purchase recommendations.

The brainchild of two Oxford University graduates, Farris Salah and Oliver Ripley, the site is backed by Black Ocean, a holding company that invests in and manages digital ventures. Black Ocean received a $100 million investment commitment in September from privately held Ocean Group, which has interests in aviation, agriculture, real estate, technology and media.

“This is an e-commerce platform that utilizes social media to filter all the data about products out there and make it more useful to users, while earning commissions on the sales they drive,” said Salah, who is based in New York. The site is the latest entrant to a field that includes StyleOwner, Shop My Label and Shopcade, which also enable users to earn commissions via virtual shops or Facebook recommendations.

Wisemarkit users log on to the site through Facebook, create their own virtual shops, fill them with their favorite products and earn commissions when their friends click on products or purchase them through linked e-commerce sites. Wisemarkit splits the commission 50-50 with users, a figure that could fluctuate as the site progresses.

The site leverages the well-established e-commerce affiliate model, under which e-tailers pay a commission to sites that send shoppers their way. Wisemarkit is using the Amazon.com affiliate program as well as the ShopSense platform, which is an aggregator of hundreds of leading affiliate programs, including those of Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and J. Crew. Thousands of products from this base of retailers can be “Wisemarked” by users, which adds it to a user’s virtual storefront.

The Amazon affiliate program offers a commission rate of between 4 and 15 percent, depending on product category and volume of orders generated by a lead. ShopSense pays a range of commission rates based on click-throughs rather than purchases and Wisemarkit will pay users for the click-throughs, using an internal algorithm.

Other affiliate marketing providers that help publishers monetize content by generating leads for e-tailers include LinkShare and RewardStyle.

Wisemarkit has added an entertainment and gaming aspect by also rewarding users with its own points for clicks and purchases generated by users’ stores. Points can be used to decorate a store, enlarge it and add virtual floors to it, which should attract more people to a shop — just as in the real world.

Each user’s storefront appears on a “street,” populated by friends’ stores — facilitated by Facebook connections — or stores they choose to follow, making it easy to explore trusted product recommendations. “My father doesn’t have to ring me up about which laptop to buy, for example — he can just go to my store to see what I recommend. People will go to the stores they know,” said Salah.

To keep the interface clean and the shopping experience manageable, only 10 items can be stocked in each store at a time, with older items dropping into a “basement,” which serves as a time line of all of a user’s marked products. “Unlike with Pinterest, you really have to think about what you’re choosing to put in your store, due to the quantity limitations,” pointed out Salah.

As the member base grows and people add more detailed demographic information to their profiles, robust search functions will add to the Wisemarkit experience. “If I wanted to buy a mountain bike in Colorado, I’ll be able to filter users’ stores who are 25 to 35 and live in Colorado and see which bikes are most recommended,” explained Salah. Members will also earn commissions via this search function, when products they have Wisemarked are bought through it — even if the product is not bought directly via a particular user’s virtual store. This structure is meant to incentivize users to provide more detailed personal information about themselves, which makes their stores more search-friendly.

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