Last week Mothercare announced that it has bought the remaining 50% of social networking site Gurgle, just as HMV announced that it is closing its networking site GetCloser.

This reignites the debate over whether retailers should be running separate social networking sites or integrating user- generated content more closely with their e-commerce proposition. HMV has chosen to integrate some of the features of GetCloser into its new loyalty scheme site, which clearly makes sense if it is to get the maximum benefit from the customer insight it can collect this way.

However, for Mothercare, sticking with the separate approach could be more appropriate for its brand. It has already rolled out the Gurgle platform in the US and India, focusing first on English-speaking consumers. As the retailer seeks to extend its ecommerce offer to more countries, and particularly developing countries, using Gurgle to warm up consumers before they are ready to start web shopping could prove a great way of introducing the Mothercare brand online.