I read a RWW article this morning on SCAVNGR launching it’s platform internaitonally and integrating with Google Maps (SCVNGR Goes Global and Becomes the First Service to Use Google’s Places API) and a few thoughts crossed my mind. I generally use this blog for organizing thoughts, so it seems like a good place to hash through some of them.
Google and Mobile
The article is not particularly interesting because SCAVNGR is not particularly interesting, it’s a Foursquare copycat. You’re wondering why you’ve read this far. Well, SCAVNGR is part of the the Google Ventures portfolio and is now utilizing the google Places API, and this is really interesting. Google Places will not become Wave or Buzz; I believe that it has the potential to drive more revenue for the search giant than anything else in the pipeline.
All of these check-in services (SCAVNGR, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.) are clamoring for local advertising and coupon business; a market that may exceed $1 Billion in annual expenditures by 2012 assuming that smartphone penetration hits 50% as projected, and that smartphone users are all worth some nominal amount of local search through mobile (292.8 M wireless subscribers, 50% smartphone users, $5 in annual coupon each = $730 million)
Google, with the Android platform, is poised to become one of the leading players in this space if it can put to local search what it has managed to do with web search. I also predict that Android will become the mobile operating system in the next two years.
Gaming Mechanics and Coupons Are Vastly Different
Back to the coupon aspect of the mobile industry, I think the problem with “gaming-mechanics” and these services is that they’re not transactional enough, in the sense that they generally don’t solve a problem or provide users with enough immediate value. If I want a coupon or a deal, I want that coupon or deal. I don’t want to check-in and brag about being at the grocery store (I just want $1 off Cheerios). I would leave the social context work to Facebook who will undoubtedly win the connect with friends at aplaces” war with everyone, based simply on the amount of users they have.
Where Facebook won’t win is in deals. Again, I don’t need to connect with friends to get a coupon. Mothers (heads of household purchasing in the U.S.) don’t need to let everyone on Facebook know that they’re buying diapers, or Tide., or back-to school clothes for the kids. Shopping is not always a social endeavor, especially when it comes to coupons. This non-social shopping environment is where all of the giant piles of money live.