Think about something you’ve purchased recently. How did you decide to buy that thing?
In my buying behavior I find that I can split it up into three phases:
1. Need generation. This is what happens when someone shows you something you didn’t know you wanted, but that you immediately get interested in. It might be a TV show (how many people will visit China over the next few years because of what they are seeing on TV at the Olympics. I bet a ton).
2. Research. You’ve decided to buy something, say a new car, but now you need to figure out which one is best for you. Some of the things you do here are to ask your friends, look online for reviews, read Consumer Reports, etc etc.
3. Purchase. You’ve decided what you want, now you go looking for the best place to complete the transaction.
Think through to the best businesses on the Internet. Most that I can think of fit into one or several of these three phases.
Google, for instance, makes billions of dollars from advertisers who want to help you complete a transaction. Do a search for digital cameras, for instance, and there you’ll see ads.
But competing with Google is not really possible, even for a huge multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft.
So, since Google has pretty much locked up the last phase, where is the next Internet monetization battle taking place?
Both Facebook and Google are beating each other up to lock up the next phase: social recommendation and participation.
Yesterday I visited Facebook to get an up close look at Facebook Connect. I had previously attended the Google FriendConnect launch and even videoed that with my cell phone.
It’s interesting, though, that both of these systems haven’t gotten widespread use yet. It’s also interesting that the teams both struggle to explain why a normal business would use these technologies in their own business’ sites. At least in language that a normal person who isn’t a Facebook addict would understand.
So, let me simplify into a single sentence. Adding social networking features to your corporate sites helps your users through the research phase of the buying process.
These will get widespread use over the next few years as stories come out about successes.
But let’s look at one site that’s very close to what I’m talking about.
Now, Gary owns a wine store in New Jersey that is selling about $50 million per year in wine. That means he has the third phase of the buying process nailed down. He’s the Google of the New Jersey wine market.
So, how is he changing his business? (He calls it bringing thunder to the wine industry).
His website and show are TOTALLY about extending his reach into the other phases of the buying process.
His video show creates the need in your head to try more wine. Today’s show gets me to try out some Italian sparkling wine. I had no idea before I watched that show that I needed to try that wine.
Now, notice what happens next. Look at the comments. 136 of them when I wrote this post. You can see the research phase of the buying process happening there. People are recommending different wines than Gary did, or backing up what Gary said, etc.
Now, Gary is WAY AHEAD of most other wine stores. I went to Google and searched for “Wine store” and found wine.com.
But notice that they don’t even get close to creating the need in my head for different kinds of wine that Gary does. Video is unparalleled for creating need for new things.
And, also notice that if you wanted to research Wine that they don’t have the same kind of research community that Gary is building.
Now, could wine.com go past winelibrary.tv in the research phase? Yes. They already are tracking top contributors to their reviews. But using Facebook’s Connect they could go way further: they could tie their contributors into Facebook itself and add all sorts of interesting interactive features. I know that if a friend of mine, like Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, buys a paticular wine that it’ll be good (Loic has great taste in wine).
By making the site more personal and bringing my friend’s choices into a site like this it’ll convert me to more wine sales at a far higher rate than it does today.
But imagine if Gary’s site did that. He already is 90% there (he’s always on Twitter interacting with people and his video show is just so much more of a personal experience than reading the reviews on wine.com).
If I were a marketer I’d be trying to figure out how to stay up with Gary. Why? Well, do you think his viewers are going to price shop Gary? Hell no. How do you stay up with Gary’s concept? Google and Facebook’s new APIs are the way to do that.
What do you think? Are you thinking of using more social features on your website?