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We will soon live in a world where everyone sells something, directly or indirectly. Commerce is embedded in our lives in ways that are unprecedented and it will be even more pervasive in the future — across all media and influenced by our social networks. Here are some of the companies and drivers that are making it happen.
Commerce in our social interactions.
Now anybody can create a retail store on Facebook. Companies like Context Optional and Payvment have apps that facilitate e-commerce on Facebook – including inventory set-up, importing of product photos and handling of shipping options and more. So Facebook users can view and buy products for sale in a storefront that is adjacent to the social interaction. But then the social part kicks in: these apps enable people to comment on and share things for sale. Fans of a product or service can text coupon codes to their friends, which are received and can be redeemed by mobile devices. Adgregate’s solution enables fans to promote products via “wish lists”, “I want this!”, “Likes”, “Shout outs”, gift registries, private and exclusive sales, and more.
It won’t be long before there are personal affiliate programs in social media where individuals get compensated for influencing and sharing products — and maybe that already exists. Getting recommendations from a trusted source helps consumers discover and vet products, which I applaud. But we’ll begin to see what I’ll call “Graft in the Graph” where – among some segments – financial motivations eclipse innocuous sharing. And when that happens it will begin to call into question the recommendations themselves, e.g. “Can I really trust this guy?” Then things will come full circle: true friendships and trusted relationships will be at a premium.
If things pan out this way, it will bode well for services that enable users to vote not only with their words but with their wallets. Like Blippy for example, which lets people share their purchases with online networks. It’s one thing to say you “like” X-box. It’s another thing to buy it and share your transaction history with the world.
And finally, Groupon and its many competitors: share great deals with your friends and if enough people participate everyone saves lots of dough.
Commerce in the ads we see.
Advertising has come a long way. It goes beyond brand-building, informing and engaging an audience — rich media enables transactions to occur within online ads themselves. Adgregate’s ShopAds can replicate the entire secure shopping experience within a portable ad unit; allowing transmission of data between advertisers and partners. Through partnerships with Doubleclick, Eyewonder and PointRoll these ads are becoming more pervasive. This approach will generally work for consumers who are in the market for a specific product – in addition to spurring more impulse buys – and behavioral targeting makes it easier to identify the former. Conclusion: marketers increasingly know what we want to buy, when we want to buy it and provide us with options to buy within advertising. And in those cases the company who catches that consumer first wins, which has big implications for real-time feedback loops in optimizing the media mix and the message.
Commerce based on the phone calls we make.
Somewhere along the way – and I think it was “Advertising on-hold” in the 1980‘s – phone calls began to be monetized. It spawned a whole industry: the up-sell side of telemarketing. I once met someone who built a $400 million business by devising up-sells to consumers on the in-bound phone calls of his partners. Mobile commerce and location-based promotion are of course growing, but those are not triggered based on the actual content of the phone call. Consider this: Comcast, Vonage and even Google provide transcriptions of our voice messages, sent to us via email. The potential for “advertising context” exists from that hard data: if someone leaves a message “See you at the ACDC concert tonight” there is evidence that you like ACDC. In the future, to the extent consumers agree to share this information – for a price – there will have huge possibilities for marketers to use this data and target offerings based on contents of phone calls. Semantic search technologies will have a new frontier to mine: our conversations.
Commerce when we hang up from those phone calls.
Mobile app developers can now integrate Paypal payments into their apps (with the Android powered phones to start). This means that when you use your smart phone you can make purchases within apps without having to enter your credit card number, if you have an account with Paypal. Developments like this will spawn promotion within apps where – like the commercialization of Second Life – marketers will seek out apps related to their brands and use those apps as opportunities for merchandising and e-commerce. That’s already happening on a smaller scale but its generally by the mobile app developers who are trying to sell their own stuff. The real opportunity will be in the promotion and merchandising within apps. Early players like TargetSpot already serve up audio ads within apps. And iAds from Apple will take that concept to the next level.
Right now every ad agency and promotion agency worth their salt should be jumping on this opportunity.
Commerce without Shopping.
What if you could buy something once and then get recurring shipments of everyday items without having to shop again? Companies like OrderGroove are making this happen by setting up continuity programs for CPG and other companies, so their customers automatically get their coffee, pet food, office supplies etc. at regular, predetermined intervals. This turns customers into subscribers. And it lets merchants effectively say “we’ll do the shopping for you.” OrderGroove dynamically generates initial offers and adds a layer of data so clients understand and optimize the things that acquire and retain customers. And then, presto, every four weeks you get your Folgers.
Bottom line: E-Commerce is going to be everywhere. Get used to it.