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As a technology scout, I often look for new behaviors of consumers in order to predict technology evolutions. After some time looking into the GroupOn trend, I have started to form a mental understanding of sorts. The stakes are high and the social shopping trend presents a new prosperous businessmodel and most large online companies are making the move to harness the trend. Let me explain the separate parts that forms my picture and what it all means.

1. eBay – the online fleamarket.

Looking at what today is widely accepted as a stunning success and moneymachine – eBay took the private entrepreneur online. Craigslist and similar services continue to provide broad audiences for the private seller. The shift from paper to online generated a larger audience and more interest for the second-hand market.

2. Facebook – networking our life.

Through the introduction of online social networks like Friendster, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter and Facebook, personal networks got joined together online. The effects of “Faceboking” you social life is a transparency that newer been visible before. New “check in” services from GPS enabled mobile devices further expose our location and automatically connects us with unknown people on the same location.

3. iPhone – making applications smarter.

As mentioned above, “check in” services like “Places” on Facebook, Loopt, Gowalla and Brightkite brought the social context to the mobile device though their “check in” features. Together with Twitter and Facebook mobile, the social and contextual dialogue is more and more becoming a way of using the technology.

The New, New Market!

So, based on these three separate innovations,a new market is emerging – Social Shopping. Sure, not all new in its core – Amazon have for long had recommendation and 3:rd party providers of used products. But, if I look closer on the trend, and take into consideration the companies that have announced that they are testing similar products – it will be a fierce battle ahead.

GroupOn is the one stealing all the headlines right now, IPO rumors are spreading and the race is on for becoming the leader of the pack. Nr. 2 on the market – Living Social are playing catch up. Recently I was invited to sign-up for Facebook Deals, a service originally launched last year and currently going through updates similar to GroupOn and Living Social. Goggle is testing its Google Offers. Microsoft is using it´s Bing to for similar services.

What does it mean?

What does all this mean you might think. I fell it’s a contextual shopping trend that moves the web 2.0 into a truly social value experience. If you are shopping for something and have the mobile device, you will be able to utilize your location and seek out good deals close to where you are, when you want it. The technology evolution exemplified by iPhone and Android phones with location awareness embedded is the technology enabler. Facebook networks are the social context and audience for spreading the word and eBay entrepreneurs can chase deals and post them on the social shopping sites to generate a self-serving ecosystem that becomes a machine in it self.

One might think that this technology trend, contrary to social networks of relationships (which are personal and limited) like Facebook, have enough room for more than one or two major services. As the trend relies on action rather than relation, its a active usage and active user who drives the equation – on Facebook, it’s all a matter of who you know.

Implications

The biggest question for me is if Facebook will succeed in incorporating their Facebook Deals service into the private social networks as a natural extension of smaller, often local groups of a few hundred people, as seem to be the norm of the personal networks on Facebook. If they succeed, they will steal the market from the pioneers like GroupOn and Social Living and further solidify their position as the premier social destination on the net, if not Facebooks value will decline as a result and focus might shift. Google, Amazon and Microsoft will steal their fair share of the market place, as they own large audiences and often “host” a mature audience searching for little less cool and less hip offerings – with high trust and reliability.

The race is on!

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