Or, If Groupon Flipped Their Model, Could It Unleash the Power of Networks?
by Venessa Miemis
As I’ve been working on the supplemental infographic for the Future of Money project, I noticed that all of the interesting new sites and ideas for value exchange are essentially types of marketplaces. There are peer to peer marketplaces now for gifting, sharing, bartering, trading, renting, lending, and investing. Most are operating on the level of exchange between individuals, but very few at the group level. (spider sense tingling: opportunity?)
I poked around to find examples of group buying sites, but the area is still rather sparse. A few examples in China (Taobao, liba, TeamBuy, getgogive), and the largest example I’m aware of here in the US is Groupon.
Groupon works kind of like Kickstarter for discounts, leveraging “collective buying power.” They partner with local businesses in your area to offer discounts on products and services, then post a new deal every day. The deals are activated only after a minimum number of people commit to buy.
Sounds like a great model. Groupon apparently thinks so too – they’re looking for a $3 billion valuation. (saw tweet yesterday, don’t know accuracy of source). Either way, it made me think that while it’s interesting to present a daily offer to a consumer, what would happen if you flipped the model? What if you allowed people to pool around a desire, and pitch it back to the supplier?
It seems like this could be an effective way to not only get discounts on products that are usually cost prohibitive (i.e. solar panels), but possibly to assist people in self-organizing for group investment opportunities.
If it had some functionality that allowed you to specify your preferences and what you care about, it could send you alerts when an offer that might interest you had been proposed. It would also make sense if it could semantically understand offers and bundle similarly worded offers or duplicates. Then provide the option to share the offer across your social networks in order to build critical mass to get it activated.
I did find one example of a company that seems to be trying to do something like this, GotoGroupBuy, but it doesn’t appear to have much traction. (maybe not enough of a “social” aspect?)
No one has made an elegant version of this just yet, but as our social profiles become more robust and public, our social networks more connected, and our creativity around leveraging collective intelligence on the rise, it seems only a matter of time before these types of marketplaces exist.
Venessa Miemis is a Media Studies graduate student at the New School in NYC, exploring what happens at the intersection of technology, culture, and communication. Connect with her at www.emergentbydesign.com and on Twitter @venessamiemis.