The Future Of E-Commerce – Where Intention Meets Social
I read an article just today where it was confirmed that Facebook are currently testing a new feature that – in my opinion – may become as popular and ubiquitous as the ‘Like’ button. This feature is the ‘Want’ button, and is a way for users to announce their desire or interest in a particular product or service within the walls of the social network. The ‘Want’ button should function in the same way as the Like button.
If you ‘want’ a product, you hit the button in much the same way as you hit ‘Like’ to publicly announce your approval or admiration for a particular status update.
For me, this is not just another Facebook feature, but rather represents the fertile shoots of a new phenomenon which I believe is imminent – an ‘Intention Economy’ powered by the depth, reach and consumer-enabling capabilities of Social. This new online economy will be the ‘next big thing’ in e-commerce models, and will focus around harnessing and showcasing the purchase intentions of consumers worldwide.
It will involve the matching of consumer purchase intent with the readiness of sellers to meet it via e-commerce platforms with a strong social focus. On a practical level, consumers will announce what they intend to purchase via various platforms, and sellers will move to accommodate them.
A new brand of social commerce
‘Deal of the day’ websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial have already made inroads into social commerce. The only issue is that they have merely scratched the surface of what is possible, if even that. Indeed, their model is actually the complete reverse of the ‘intention’ model. Instead of allowing consumers to announce their intentions in a targeted, structured and customised way, these models are more attuned to a broadcast media, ‘scattergun’ approach. While Groupon may have been the fastest growing company in history, theirs is a much less effective and far more hit and miss model – and all the evidence points to consumers having become jaded with the irrelevant daily deals email ‘blast’, likening it almost to spam. You may even be reading this and nodding your head in agreement.
What are the benefits of this new Intention Economy?
There are a number of key upsides associated with this new economy for consumers in particular:
Collective buying power
This is the number one consumer advantage. Why purchase something alone, when you can purchase with others to get what you want at a lower price? Group together with others who have stated their intention to purchase the product or service you want. Watch this collective purchasing power entice vendors to make offers with modest reductions, as opposed to the unsustainable discounts outfits like Groupon demand.
Time-saving efficiencies and an improved overall shopping experience
In the new world of the Intention Economy, you do not need to invest huge amounts of time in scanning different websites and performing comparison checks to ensure you are getting the best deal. Simply announce your intention to purchase along with a specified group, name your budget, and sit back and watch as the purchasing power of the group compels sellers to make you an offer that fits your criteria. Job done.
If you can see at a glance that others with the same interests as you are looking for the same product or service, this gives you the reassurance that you are making a solid purchasing decision. It also gives you that general reassurance of being part of something bigger – we are social animals after all.
How will we recognise the arrival of the Intention Economy?
Aside from Facebook’s imminent foray into the Intention Economy, there is already some limited evidence of the new paradigm in action. Campaigns such as Dell Swarm have allowed consumers to join together and exert their collective buying power by purchasing big-ticket items in groups. This is a win-win for both buyer and seller. Consumers save, whilst businesses get to make sales in bulk, gain new customers, advocates and repeat custom. They can achieve all this while enhancing their brand image and drawing attention to their product or service offering via the social networks, forums, and community websites where buyers are apt to spread details on the opportunity to purchase together.
The benefits do not stop there. Businesses may also have the opportunity to gain access to a rich source of data on the purchasing intentions of their consumers via the platforms which enable this new brand of social commerce. The most obvious one, as mentioned, is Facebook – but there will inevitably be new platforms and applications outside of the enclosed network which will allow businesses access to this invaluable source of market intelligence.
The real movement towards this new economy, however, may only arrive with the emergence of the future start-ups and entrepreneurs who wish to grasp with both hands the opportunities the Intention Economy provides. It is only a matter of time before we start to awaken to the value of a truly socially-enhanced way of executing our purchasing decisions in transforming the future of e-commerce.