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The Next Big Thing? - Online Shopping Gets An Upgrade

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'The Next Big Thing?' is a series of blogs that will focus on small businesses and start-up brands in the UK. Whether they are quirky, practical, pioneering or downright bizarre, this blog will shine the spotlight on what could be the next big thing...

Have you ever been browsing online and come across a product that made you think "that looks good, I might try that", only to forget all about it next time you are making your weekly shopping list? If that sounds familiar, there's an application called Slingshot that is on its way and could very well change the way we shop online...

Online shopping is big business. These days it's never been so easy for companies to reach a global audience through an online sales platform, whether that means gaining access to over 180 million shoppers worldwide with an eBay shop, or showcasing your products on a site such as Folksy.com, which has risen to become one of the most popular UK sites for handmade gifts and supplies.

Websites now act as a second shop floor, and for small businesses in particular, the internet is a powerful tool for interacting with their consumers. John Walker, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, recently commented that "online trading has helped to empower small businesses to find new markets, sell new products, try new models and compete on an equal footing with larger businesses".

The UK is Europe's leading e-tail economy, with sales estimated to have reached £68.2bn in 2011. According to the Interactive Media in Retail Group, the UK e-tail market is currently growing at 16% per annum, in spite of the recession.

With over 32 million people shopping online in the UK, and with the number of platforms that they are using to sell their wares continuing to grow, experience and ease have become ever more important. Born out of this trend comes start-up tech company Slingshot. According to its creators (and university friends) Stephen Darlington and Mitch Vidler, Slingshot is on a mission 'to make boring shopping as easy and fun as possible'.

Slingshot allows you to add products to your existing online shopping basket from a multitude of places. Instead of searching around a retailer site like Tesco.com for products, you can add them as you see them in day-to-day life. For example, if you see a Slingshot icon on the website of a brand like Doritos, you simply click on it and it will 'sling' the product into your online Tesco shopping basket. Or if you see a Slingshot icon on a celebrity cook's recipe page, with one click you can 'sling' all of the ingredients into your online basket.

Vidler goes on to discuss how Slingshot is making online shopping easier: "One really innovative part of what we do is that our users do not need to sign up for a Slingshot account or install any browser plug-ins. We simply use the user's existing online shopping account (e.g. Tesco.com), which they only need to sign in to once. This is really important for ease of use; anyone who already shops online can use Slingshot straight out of the gate."

This nifty piece of technological wizardry is an exciting prospect for brands and retailers, as it can take them out of the confines of their domain, and can make any webpage or advertisement an extension of their site that people can use. Fundamentally, it allows impulse purchasing and it is something that big companies like PepsiCo are set to pilot, with Tesco.com already on board.

Fancy a go? Try their test page here: http://slingshotshopping.com/ and sling those crisps.
Alex Perry works at consumer PR and brand marketing agency be more... If you think your product, brand, idea or invention could be the next big thing, email thenextbigthing@bm.com

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