Purchase information is typically highly-valuable intel for retailers. I'm pretty certain that Restoration Hardware's or Amazon's knowledge of my purchase history helps them determine what else to sell to me. In aggregate, the purchase information helps them understand their customers' preferences, correlations in purchases, and what merchandise to stock up on, or not buy, in the future.
But now that valuable treasure trove of data may not be "just" theirs to analyze. Rather competitors may begin sifting through the same information that was once considered proprietary, thanks to new services like Swipely, which lets people share their purchases with friends, and strangers, err - friends of friends.
In this segment of my three-part interview with Angus Davis, founder and CEO of Swipely, we explore this concern, which is just one of many. The other being the apparent privacy concern. What happens when someone inadvertently reveals certain items he or she bought that may not be the type of item they'd want anyone to know about? There is a saying that you reveal who you are when you are alone. The same can be said about your purchases. You are, what you buy.
But this is a minor issue. People need to share. It's part of being human. They can't help themselves. So, they will. And, if they do - they need to live with the consequences of their action. I also believe the more transparency, the better. But that's another story.
The bigger issues is that people are sharing what was heretofore proprietary data.
The data-sharing tidal wave
"The change we’re seeing on the Internet is the rise of the people-powered Web," he replied. "it’s a world in which a lone person on Twitter can have more influence than the largest media organizations... in the same way, Swipely is empowering consumers to discover new places and new products through friends that they interact with on Swipely."
Indeed, on Swipely, I can share my receipts of what I purchased. And, I don't believe retailers have any right to stop me from sharing that activity. If I'm proud of the deals I can get or the taste that I have in my wine, furniture or biking accessory purchases, I might actually enjoy sharing that information. No one should own that information more than I.
I'd imagine, however, that retailers, like Amazon, have a strong case if consumers are submitting their user/customer IDs and allowing companies, like Swipely, as well as Blippy (a similar service) to ping Amazon's servers for that data. At that point, that's the retailer's territory.
But apparently, Swipely is getting around this issue. "We never ask our customers, for example, to give us their user password," he said. "I think those things spook retailers… with our services, when we’re dealing with Amazon, PayPal, and eBay, we work with email... we avoid issues of having to do customer integration with retailers."
So, if that information is available to everyone, what should retailers do? Embrace these new services.
"Retailers love our service because we’re taking their best customers and enabling them to become a word-of-marketing channel for them," said Angus.
Indeed, this is not dissimilar to being able to see what movies your friends purchased on Netlix. Recommendations are a big driver of rentals. Swipely doesn't care about what's the best-selling grill at Home Depot, what it cares about is that you know what grill your friend bought, because that will be a better motivator of your purchase.
The tidal wave of sharing won't recede. There's clearly an opportunity for retailers to embrace this as well.
They probably should ride the wave.