The social genome: Could the Real time web do for Retail as advertising did for Search?

Could the Real time web do for Retail as advertising did for Search?

This blog arises from two recent conversations:

-          Earlier this week, I was in Brussels and discussed the future of the Web in a number of conversations with MEPs  which was based on the significance of the Real Time Web and

-          I blogged about the significance of the Real time Web in conversation with @tonia_ries;  organizer of The Real Time Report conference in New York, which I am attending in June.

Tonia came up with a succinct equation: value (for content) = time + place + shared interest

Coming from a background of mobile and social media, for a long time, Telecom Operators have drooled at the idea of the proverbial ‘starbucks model’. While Starbucks never launched any such service as far as I know, the model went like this: When a customer passed near a Starbucks, they would get an SMS offering them 10% off the price of coffee. Telecoms, with it’s relatively closed mindset could never launch such a service but assuming you had a permission based relationship with the retailer, the model is viable.

It needs:

a)      Customers to trust you

b)      Access to real time data and historical data

c)       Awareness of context

d)      An open ecosystem (else you have small silos of data and customers which make it unviable)

e)      Real time interactions

The prevailing thinking was:

Google could be the store of all this data and that we, as customers, will give up all our data to Google


The Telecom Operator would know who you are and where you are. They would be the providers of this and provide that information real time via SMS (and be paid by the retailer ofcourse)

But customers were not that stupid and maybe not the  Retailers as well!

Retailers may finally have woken up from their apathy and decided that they need not simply abdicate the relationship they share with the customer to either Telecoms or to Google. The real time web may provide an alternative to play on their existing strengths but still leverage the open ethos of the Web

It appears that customers are not choosing a single web brand for various services but rather that they are choosing different brands for distinct services – ex Twitter for real time web, facebook for social, foursquare for check-ins and Google for search. Today, Google is far from dominating at least three incarnations of the Web post Google – The Real time Web, the Social web and the ‘Location Web’ (check-ins) (which explains Google’s recent emphasis on winning  the social web)

Looking at it from a customer standpoint, How do we define value?

Value could be either

a)      The customer pays for something that they find useful (traditional definition of value)

b)      The customer gets  something useful for free in return for advertisements + relinquishing some control of their data(Google)

c)       The customer gets information that is actionanble in real time in return for data

The Web provided one form of indirect monetization through the advertising model. But the advertising model does not suit all providers (although it always suits Google). The real time web could provide an alternative for retail as advertising did for search.

There is increasing evidence for this:

Wal-Mart may have paid $300M+ for Kosmix . Kosmix appears to be a mixture of three things: TweetBeat, RightHealth and a web service to explore the web by topic. But the premium for kosmix may be for the underlying ‘social genome’ technology.

In the announcement blog post, the founder,  Anand Rajaraman says it’s the “social genome” technology underlying the company’s products:

Conversations in social media revolve around “social elements” such as people, places, topics, products, and events. For example, when I tweet “Loved Angelina Jolie in Salt,” the tweet connects me (a user) to Angelia Jolie (an actress) and SALT (a movie). By analyzing the huge volume of data produced every day on social media, the Social Genome builds rich profiles of users, topics, products, places, and events.

Wal-Mart wants to bring this technology to shoppers, offering them “integrated experiences that leverage the store, the web, and mobile, with social identity being the glue that binds the experience,” Rajaraman says.

If this is accurate, then it is indeed possible that the Real time web do for retail as advertising did for search.

Note: In this blog, I use the terms ‘Real time web’ and the ‘Real time internet’ loosely and interchangibly. The objective is simply to focus on real time interactions and I use both terms to signify the same.

If you are attending the Realtime report NY 2011 event on June 6 at BB King’s in Times Square NY, say Hi!