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Wednesday October 8, 2008

Virtual shopping

WHEN Soh Yien Yee was first introduced to the virtual world of shopping, she did not know that her involvement in the trade would be more than that of a shopper.

These days, the Psychology student from HELP University College manages two blogs €“ one is an online shop (e-shop) of her own, while another reviews items found in other people’s e-shops.

The idea for these blogs came from Yien Yee’s interaction with other bloggers whom she buys things from.

Daily dose: Boo Sha-Lyn has linked over 200 online boutique websites to her blog, Diary of an E-Shopaholic.

“I asked them to give me a heads up when they’re about to update their blogs with the items for sale,” the 20-year-old Yien Yee says.

She adds that she wanted to be alerted because items sold in these e-shops are usually limited, and are often on a first-come, first-served basis. As such, one really has to keep track of the latest items featured in their favourite e-shops if they really want to buy them.

These alerts saved Yien Yee a lot of time, and she soon realised that she could help others with the information too.

And that is how her “shopping blogs’ reviewing blog” called A Shopaholic’s Den (http://ashopaholicsden.blogspot.com) started.

Giving reviews

There are shops, there are e-shops and then there are e-shop reviewers. Just like how car magazines serve car dealers, these special sites act as a medium between a buyer and a seller.

All about convenience: Charlotte Khor started the blog Little Accompaniments to make it easier for online shoppers to view updates on accessories for sale on one webpage.

The reviewers browse through their favourite shopping blogs on a daily basis and pick their favourite items; then proceded to post them on their blogs.

“I can’t just post things that I personally like. Different people have different tastes, so I also review clothes or accessories that I may not wear myself,” says Yien Yee.

Yien Yee is among the many e-shop reviewers which are appearing in cyberspace from around the world.

At least twice a day, Communications student Boo Sha-Lyn, 18, looks through updates of the estimated 200 shopping blogs she frequents to post on her blog, Diary of an E-Shopaholic  (http://diaryofane-shopaholic.blogspot.com).

Sha-Lyn, who is also known as Xash in the online shopping community, spends one to two hours each day to search for hidden gems in her favourite shopping blogs.

For her, it all started when she began her own blog early this year, selling second-hand items. She managed to sell a fewthings, but eventually ran out of stuff to sell, leading to the demise of her blog.

Self-confessed shopaholic: So Yien Yee’s blog is called A Shopaholic’s Den

So, she came up with another idea - creating a blog that would serve as a repository of sorts.

“As I browsed through online shopping boutiques, I realised that there was no medium to connect me to all these sites with one single click. So I decided to create this blog for people like me,” says Sha-Lyn, whose blog features clothing, shoes, and occasionally, accessories and bags.

“I later decided to review items daily as well as highlight pieces of clothing, accessories and shoes that I like,” she adds.

Popular blogs

Sha-Lyn’s blog has been around for three months, and she receives over 1,000 hits a day from shopaholics like herself.

“I usually post updates from an average of 10 blogs daily. I put up the picture of the item, the price, the URL of the blog and, I review the item, too. My short reviews usually discuss the price (whether it’s a steal or not), the quality and the flaws,” she explains.

Flaws include details like the positioning of buttons and zippers, quality of material or stitching; little things that you would notice yourself as a buyer.

Charlotte Khor, 25, started her blog called Little Accompaniments (http://littleaccompaniments.blogspot.com)       in August, a couple of months after discovering the Malaysian online shopping scene.

The sub-editor for a local website was browsing for accessories on the Net but ended up feeling frustrated that many blogs were not updated often enough.

It was then that Charlotte decided she would start a blog of her own, one that        linked all the blogs on accessories that        she knew of. This meant that she didn’t        need to visit so many different sites at any one time.

“The items in my blog are a little more straightforward to buy, as necklaces and bracelets can be adjusted easily, often with        no extra charge from the seller,” says Charlotte.

Of course, one may wonder if they are spending more time scouring the Net for items than they originally did. Well, it’s actually less work.

For example, Yien Yee’s blog is so popular that she doesn’t even have to search for updates as e-shop owners often e-mail her the details themselves.

“I try to feature at least one item from each e-shop that sends me the update. I only review new things and don’t review the same things even if different e-shops had sent them to me,” she says.

What’s in it for them?

Says Charlotte: “So far, I’ve gained               nothing monetary-wise. The amount earned from online advertisements isn’t even        enough to buy me coffee! And I also don’t get special discounts from sellers, neither do I expect them to since they’re running a business!”

For her, it is all about personal gratification.

“My blog serves as my little getaway-cum-‘art corner’. I get satisfaction when I see little pieces of art on my blog,” she says.

But that’s not the case for everyone. Yien Yee makes about RM100 a month from the advertisements on her blog, but admits to getting discounts and gifts from the bloggers she features.

“Those are the perks that comes without me asking. (But) I do this because it’s really fun for me and it’s not just about getting freethings,” she notes.

Sha-Lyn, too, receives discounts from some sellers who want to show their gratitude to her for featuring their sites, but she claims that this isn’t the reason she runs her site.

“There is some money from the advertisements posted on my site, but it isn’t much. I love shopping and clothes, and I wanted to make it easier for girls like me,” Sha-Lyn explains.

“There is also a lot of interaction on the blogs what with the availability of a chat space. That’s where fashion enthusiasts share their ideas and help each other out by recommending boutiques and blogs to check out.”

Also, updating a blog doesn’t take much time either. As a student, Yien Yee is busy with assignments and other work, and        makes it a point not to update her blog        during classes.       

“I only update it when I’m home and even then, each entry takes only about 15 minutes,” she shares.

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