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Friday, June 08, 2012

Experience Oriented Approach To Deals

The SoLoMo (Social+Local+Mobile) game is getting more interesting by the day, specially from the deals perspective. Big boys of the game (Facebook, Yelp, Groupon) have been gearing up for quite some time now, and Foursquare with its new focus on exploration and recent app redesign is looking even more interesting. What I love the most about this whole deals angle to the SoLoMo phenomenon is that it has the power to tap the long tail of local commerce and affect the small shopkeeper/businessman directly - a brilliant case of capitalism with economic and social benefits at the root level. 

I have yet to check out the new Foursquare app, but I find most of the current apps (web + mobile) in the deals space very transactional in nature. I believe that there is a scope of making the whole deal buying experience better, making it less transactional and more humane. 

Now you might be wondering what I mean by making the experience humane and improving it. All deal-based applications can be divided into two main camps: transaction oriented (most of the deal apps fall in this camp) and experience oriented. While transaction oriented applications focus on the discounts and price aspects of the deal, the experience oriented applications focus on user experience and solution aspects. Let me explain these two further with an example. Say a user wants some guitar lessons. If he visits a transaction oriented deals application looking for guitar lessons, he will be shown a few discounted deals with some information and reviews on each one of them. The focus for the transaction-oriented deals app will be to sell the service to user. The spotlight will be on the discount.  

An experience-oriented app, on the other hand, will take a different approach and focus on providing the solution to the user, instead of just selling the service. It will focus on the features, reviews and samples of the guitar class providers, instead of talking about discounts upfront. It will show photos and videos of the facility (almost a given nowadays) along with user testimonials. It might allow you to connect with other user members who have availed the service and ask for feedback. And then, at the end, if you like the service, it will talk about the price and discount (if any). Basically, an experience oriented deals application will try to make sure that you get the best solution for your problem, which in this case is learning how to play guitar. This is how best businesses in the real world work, and I see no reason why this kind of premium service cannot work on the internet. While Facebook (in particular) and Foursquare are some of the best positioned players for providing better experience in buying deals, JetSetter is one of the best examples that I have seen of experience oriented approach to deals.

By focusing on the discount, transaction oriented apps are doing themselves a disservice and actually contributing in making their users fickle. Basically, they are opening themselves to low cost competition. Tomorrow if a new player enters the deal space and provides deals with better discounts, the users will have no qualms switching to that new application. On the other hand, experience oriented applications will be better placed against the competition [as compared to transactional ones], as they focus on providing better options to the user instead of just providing the cheapest ones. Real world businesses have shown us that users are not always after the lowest cost options, and that it is the value and service that matters more to many of them. I firmly believe that this is applicable in the online world as well, and think that we will see a transformation in the deals space with more experience oriented players emerging (or transforming from being transaction oriented).


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