New Web Sites Tell Your Friends What You’re Buying

The folks behind tech startups Blippy and Swipely want you to discuss your shopping habits online. Both sites let you create a profile and link it to your credit or debit card — and thereby, your spending habits.

Sign on to Blippy, and you can also link yourself to a variety of sites broken down by genre: clothes (Gilt Groupe, Wal-Mart), music (iTunes), movies (Hulu, Fandango, Netflix), and even food and wine (Safeway, Seamlessweb, Wine Library). Each time you buy something, you have the option to share the details of your transaction with fellow users — and, if you’ve synced your account to Facebook and Twitter, with a wider audience of friends. You can also add your own commentary — order takeout from Seamlessweb, for instance, and you can write a Yelp-like review that appears as your Blippy update.

But what’s the incentive to use this type of service? Habit sharing sites like this one have always relied on a certain tech-savvy demographic’s desire to share, and discuss, their private spending habits (Swipely’s tagline is, “We turn purchases into conversations”). But do most people really want to share that type of data? While social networking sites like Blippy and Foursquare have received tons of hype, to date only a tiny fraction of consumers actually use them. And some concerns are valid — early in its development, Blippy had serious security problems. And the amount of money you spend (and what you spend it on) can be a sensitive topic among friends.

Regardless of these concerns, tech investors are nonetheless betting big on this concept: Blippy just raised $11.2 million in funding; Swipely, an impressive $7.5 million.

The services sound identical, but they differ in subtle ways. Reuters’ blog Mediafile reports that, “While Blippy publishes financial details of a transaction, like how much money Joe just spent at Chuck E Cheese, Swipely is focused on the goods at the center of the transaction –- e.g. Joe just bought a set of Bocce balls –- discuss…” Swipely also has a social gaming component similar to Foursquare, in which you can earn badges for purchases.

Ashley Granata, the chief marketing officer of another social shopping site, Fashism, is a Blippy fan. “I use it to see what my friends are buying in terms of iPhone apps and music. I know my friends and they all have a similar taste level so its easier to make a decision on whether I should download a certain app or album.” Many people on Blippy shop on iTunes–according to TechCrunch, users have shared “over 1 million iTunes purchases thus far, which comprise about 40% of the total purchases shared on Blippy.”

Currently, there really aren’t huge incentives for joining either program. But more and more people are sharing incredible amounts of personal information online, so this may be a natural next step. Other than your your health records, what’s left to reveal?

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