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Why we're all set to become Shopa-holics

A new social site that gives a commission when users' recommended items are purchased by their followers could change the way we shop online. Katie Wright looks at how this new start-up is set to take off

Shopa is a website and app that lets users share their favourite fashion items, creating collections for other users to browse and buy.

"Shopa mirrors the fun and excitement of shopping with friends on the high street, whilst bringing all of your favourite items and brands from around the world right into your hands," says founder and CEO Peter Janes.

It's not unlike Polyvore or Pinterest, the digital pinboard site, employing a similar clean, white interface, but with one key difference: for every purchase, the recommender gets a commission. For that reason, buying is done within the site (rather than linking out to retailers), borrowing the model of affiliate marketing, commonly used by fashion bloggers to monetize their style tips through links to ecommerce sites.

It's notoriously difficult to make money off affiliate links, because the payouts are miniscule - often pennies per item - whereas you're looking at around 10% of the price for each Shopa sale.

It's a decent incentive, and people with a fervent online fanbase - model Cara Delevingne, for instance, who just hit 10 million Instagram followers - could rake in the cash.

If the Duchess of Cambridge, who causes clothes to sell out within hours of her wearing them, set up a Shopa account, she'd probably make a killing. But I'm pretty certain Palace rules prevent this sort of thing. Plus, her (and indeed anyone's) success will largely depend on more retailers signing up, because unlike Pinterest, you can't pick any old photo or pair of shoes to post.

At the moment 400 brands are on board, but it's still quite a limited range that includes a lot of designer labels.

Teens and twentysomethings are often early adopters on social sites, but it's unlikely they can afford a £2,000 Valentino coat, no matter how many people "like" it. Shopa isn't the first site to attempt to combine shopping and social media.

In 2011, Facebook's Storefront let users open shops within the site, but it failed to take off.

Boasting an easy-to-use site and an appealing reward system, Shopa has all the ingredients of a successful start-up.

If it can reach that crucial tipping point in terms of retailers and users, if big names come onboard, then it could create a nation of Shopa-holics.

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