1. Deals are just the start:
Consumers are starting to get their first experience of real-time commerce, certain types of social networks are now being used to drive purchases.
Real-time commerce offers marketers a new way to manage the path to purchase. They can seed offers and also harness word-of-mouth via rewarded endorsements.
A simple example is the new iPhone application launched by My Voucher Codes. This allows people to find shopping deals based on their location.
In markets such as France where sales are legally limited to set times of the year, real-time deals could be a particularly effective way for brands to offer year-round discounts.
2. Rewards and referrals are the next stage:
Niche check-in or location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla are now morphing from competitive entertainment into sources of product recommendation and deals that can be accessed quickly and easily.
Few consumers will be able to resist checking-in at stores in return for instant benefits or to find out what your friends/others have bought there.
Perhaps the most extreme iteration of real-time commerce is Blippy, a social network that allows people to share their credit card purchase information, allowing users to locate each other via their credit card transactions. The idea being that a user having a coffee and paying using their credit card would let all their friends would know where they were.
It’s early days and it’s hard to predict which company will succeed. At MediaCom we think the company that can create a currency of consumer incentives will ultimately reap the most benefits. An Airmiles equivalent that encouraged sharing check-ins and purchases could be a winner.
3. Social links will be essential:
The platforms that will offer the best partners for brands will need to be integrated into the social networks used by their target audience. Facebook is leveraging its 500 million-strong user base with rollout of Facebook Deals – most recently in the UK. Only a few platforms in each market will have the social network partnerships needed to become players.
Jiepang, for example, launched a local version of Foursquare in China last year. This platform-neutral business has tied up with the main social networks to give it the leverage it will need to thrive.
4. Retailers need to test different platforms and rewards:
If real-time commerce is to be part of their business model then retailers need to test these platforms early. Brands need to experiment and benefit from first-mover advantage without becoming too tied to any single application.
Smart marketers will be including these channels as part of their “experimental” digital media spend in 2011 and 2012.
Agility will be key to successful trials of the space, as companies look to find new ways not just to drive traffic to their websites but also footfall into their stores.
5. Successful real-time platforms will be very powerful:
It’s early days and the precise degree to which brands will be able to drive behaviour via these channels has yet to be determined. Clearly it will depend on the reach of each platform and consumer acceptance of such endorsements.
If these real-time platforms can show real improvements in sales then their influence over retailers will be massive. Advertisers will have to watch carefully to ensure that platform owners don’t become too powerful.
Early involvement could be very lucrative: experimentation will allow companies to learn and exploit opportunities. They may also be able to sign long-term “preferred advertiser” deals in what could become a major area of marketing/promotional spending down the line.