Can an Ecommerce Site Benefit from Social Media Games?

I really enjoyed the section of Altimeter’s Rise of Social Commerce 2010 presentation that illustrated Wet Seal’s social network game (p. 37).  The game that Altimeter described was designed as a mobile Facebook application, which allowed “fans to run their own virtual Wet Seal stores, where they can build their own assemblages of Wet Seal clothing and share them with their friends” (Kontzer, 2011).  This game was a good example of how a brand can engage its most enthusiastic customers and use their enthusiasm to attract new customers.  In Groundswell, Bernoff and Li (2011) called this marketing tactic “energizing the groundswell” and suggested that, if a business can manage to carry out this method very well, it could enable “customers to sell to each other” (p. 147).

While I enjoyed learning about this instance of “energizing the groundswell,” I was disappointed to find that this social network game now seems to be defunct.  Wet Seal operates a somewhat similar community page called “The Runway,” where shoppers can both create and browse shopper-designed outfits, but it does not appear to be supporting it as a mobile application on Facebook, nor is there any evidence that participating members get rewards if their outfits are purchased by peers (The Runway, 2013).  Moreover, “The Runway” is not a prominent feature on Wet Seal’s ecommerce site.  In fact, the only way I found it was to scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on a very small grey link titled, “Browse Outfits.”  Even though there were many industry articles written about Wet Seal’s pioneering social media marketing efforts via Facebook’s game platform, including a mention on Harvard’s Business Review (Dorf, 2011), I could not find anything regarding its decision to pull out of gaming.

Can anyone come up with reasons why Wet Seal backed out of boldly integrating a social media network game into their marketing?


Dorf, D. (2011). Using Facebook to Capture Customers. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Kontzer, T. (2011). How Wet Seal Wins With Social Media Marketing. The CMO Site. Retrieved from

Owyang, J. (2010). Rise of Social Commerce. Altimeter. Retrieved from


The Runway. (2013). Wet Seal’s Online Community Outfitter. Retrieved on July 22, 2013 from,12411094,1,2

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Ethan McCarty

Digital strategy | Social business | People-centric biznology

Alana Harris Photography

some of my favorite photos and their stories


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