What happens when social media meets sales in the ‘long tail’?

Techlicious on LuvocracyHow would you run your business if you could rent shop fronts for free, paid nothing for delivery, and had products that cost nothing to make? Let me introduce you to Web 2.0 selling and leveraging the long tail of sales.

This strategy for success was proposed by O’Reilly as one of the key patterns for Web 2.0. The secret is to use the internet to remove the physical costs of selling, so the amount of inventory and range of products is unlimited and the market is global. This means business’ can avoid chasing the popular high-volume sales at the front of the sales curve, and capitalise on the niche products and the longer selling window of the ‘long tail’ – and Amazon is a classic example. The Internet is perfect for capitalising on the benefits of leveraging the long tail, as O’Reilly explains:

Small sites make up the bulk of the internet’s content; narrow niches make up the bulk of internet’s the possible applications. Therefore, leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.

A classic example of the virtual shop and unique product sales is iTunes and ringtones which cost nothing to sell or deliver and very little to make. The idea of selling ringtones was seen as ‘the next big thing’ back in 2001  and although they faced some challenges they are still making money in the long tail of sales – even though you can create your own!

Image: JISC Infonet

The benefits that the internet offer to leverage the long tail are unique:

> Producers can reach a wider audience with new micro-markets built off small sites
> Customers have a wider range of products not just the popular but also the unusual and niche
> Business and customers profit from reduced costs of online commence and internet delivery

So how do you get some share of the money? One recent example is a spin-off from the Pinterest concept, by a new startup called Luvocracy. Their concept is to ‘find people you trust and shop what they luv’…where social media meets sales in the new marketplace!

Curated shopping at Luvocracy

Luvocracy is a great example of O’Reilly’s leveraging the long tail pattern and meets most of the recommended best practices:

* Use the three forces of the long tail to make the tail longer with an unlimited supply of goods highlighting only those for sale, makes the tail fatter by growing the customer size with the social networking, and drives supply and demand by the recommendations of users and the easy purchase options.

* Use both algorithmic data management behind the scenes to bring product sales to the attention of users and uses an architecture of participation to match supply and demand through their users and their followers networking their finds and purchases which leads to curated shopping – where you buy what others recommend.

* Use low-cost strategies to allow both business’ and users to manage their own accounts and use the low-cost advantages of an online site to reduce business overheads.

Luvocracy seems to have successfully harnessed a lot of the integrated strategies identified by research (Lee, 2010) where retention and co-creation, product reviews, cross-marketing and word-of-mouth all rate highly in the new marketplace.

Although this site is only in beta, there has been some push back on possible issues:

*  Lack of attribution to the original content owner is causing some copyright concerns,

* Offers for others to make copies of the handmade originals when they are out of stock seems to breach the original owners rights,

* Opportunities for both the blogger and the product maker to make money is upsetting product makers and opening a new discussion around marketing channels.

So, do you luv it, or not? Let me know what you think.

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More information about the Long Tail:

Hervas-Drane, Andres, Word of Mouth and Sales Concentration (February 13, 2013). NET Institute Working Paper No. 07-41. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1025123 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1025123

Lee, T. (2010). Head or tail? an integrative analysis of customer value and product portfolio. International Journal of Business and Management, 5(12), 51-61. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/821639654?accountid=13380

Where is mobile banking taking us?

Image: 401 (K) 2013

Image: 401 (K) 2013

One survey says that ‘by 2017, an estimated one billion people will use mobile banking, and it has already become a way of life for many of us‘.

A driving question for banks and application developers is ‘where can we take mobile banking’ but a more significant question for mobile users is ‘where can mobile banking take us’?

Web 2.0 guru, Tim O’Reilly,  proposed back in 2005 that successful Web 2.0 applications needed to be ‘above the level of a single device‘ and be device independent. The device independence of many applications is now an accepted part of everyday life.

But O’Reilly went further in 2012 to suggest that really successful Web 2.0 applications of the future needed to be seamless or ubiquitous and be virtually transparent in their ability to satisfy the users needs.

The idea of ubiquitous software still needs more work but advances are being made to develop softare which can be applied seamlessly across multiple devices.

Banks are well aware of the need to satisfy the users needs as studies in the UK and USA prove the strong demand from bank users, especially the young mobile users who ‘hate their bank but love their phone‘.

“banks needed to make the banking experience seamless for customers”

The benefits for the banks if they can go above the level of a single device is the ability to offer their customers access to applications everywhere, but also to capture information that is location or context aware and give the mobile banking user an experience they can’t live without.

 

The major Australian banks have gone mobile with a passion but with varying degrees of success in the eyes of their customers. To help understand the O’Reilly pattern, I will look inside the banking suite for any signs of the O’Reilly ‘best practices’.

Current banking features

Transactions processed:

  1. Enable data location independence and seamlessly synchronise data across devices – banking systems have long had this covered with branch, phone, internet, mobile, ATM and transaction processing, but a quick look at some bank websites shows they still see these as discrete bank functions rather than a seamless ‘money management’ experience.  An example would be to start a loan application online and then complete in a branch . Something similar is currently possible with online Australian passport applications.
  2. Design from the start to share data across devices, servers & networks – banking systems have evolved into multiple interfaces for transactions, payments and viewing customers’ accounts, but again these are not sharing data in a seamless manner.  There may be infrastructure or technology issues, but at least some banks are exploring innovative solutions.
  3. Extend web 2.0 to devices – banks moved from plastic cards to magnetic stripe to new chip technology which now allows chip-enabled cards to function seamlessly such as the “tap-and-go” payment options. Unfortunately, their level of sophistication is still rather raw since the customer can’t control who has access to this information – it is an all-or-nothing approach. This also requires devices in retail premises but customers are also wanting the ability to transfer funds between individuals by mobile phones.
  4. Leverage devices as data and rich media sources – banks have a wealth of information that could be used to improve the customer experience.  Some small steps have been made such as the NAB Money Tracker and St George Money Meter , but there are many more opportunities that utilise the data of previous transactions and can tell you that your water bill is up, electricity bill is down and you had twice as many coffee shop visits last month!
  5. Use power of network to take load off device – the mobile banking applications seem to have addressed this successfully, but the field is wide open for other devices to be used as well.
  6. Make one-click peer production a priority – banks are obviously aware of the ‘need for speed’ and offer quick logons to mobile banking applications such as the NAB who has replaced the userid  and password with a single mobile passcode.

Transactions pending:

  1. Think location aware – one best practice that hasn’t made a strong appearance is more location aware banking applications. One example: if they know you always buy pet food and you are there now, why not send you a text suggestion?

Future issues and opportunities

When you consider Banking and Web 2.0 the question remains: ‘where can mobile banking take us?’. The answer is anywhere and we’ll get there quicker if we stopped talking about ‘banking’ and started talking about ‘seamless asset administration’.

Who said we can’t keep our home asset register, repair log, photo memories and warranty records closely related to our savings and spending? Who said banking is a reactive activity without any reminders or prompts from the bank? Who said only banks should handle our money?

Traditionally the banks have told us what is possible – but the tables are now turned in the customers favour and new customer experiences are possible.

For a high-energy view of the ‘brave new world’ start the YouTube video at 6:00 and enjoy!

And another take on the possible future of banking and retail.

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Further Reading:

Barkhuus, L., & Polichar, V. E. (2011). Empowerment through seamfulness: Smart phones in everyday life. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 15(6), 629-639. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00779-010-0342-4

Singh, S., Puradkar, S., & Lee, Y. (2006). Ubiquitous computing: Connecting pervasive computing through semantic web. Information Systems and eBusiness Management, 4(4), 421-439. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10257-005-0003-8

Warren, P. W. (2004). From ubiquitous computing to ubiquitous intelligence. BT Technology Journal, 22(2), 28-38. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215203661?accountid=13380