Friday, March 18, 2011

COD: Wishpond – Putting virtual in service of local bricks and mortar

The percentage of retail driven through ecommerce continues to grow, but it's still in single digits. That being said, there is no doubt that consumers are using the web to do research on products, especially for more considered purchases.

Wishpondis out to drive more sales to brick and mortar, using geolocation to help small and large retailers make consumers aware of what they have in stock and ready to take home today.

Imagine you are looking for a fairly high end Nikon. You've done your research online, but now you are ready to buy. You COULD make a purchase through Amazon or Fry's online, or you could fire up Wishpond and see if it is available anywhere nearby. Wishpond lets you search local retailers' inventory to see who might have the item and for how much. Let's say three retailers report having the item. You can then consider the trade offs of price, reputation, and distance to see if one of these retailers might be a better place to buy than an online store.

There are benefits for all of the players in the retailing ecosystem:

•For consumers, Wishpond gives an easy way to compare prices and the opportunity to get the good today. They can also "make a wish" meaning that they can offer to buy something at a certain price and see if any local retailer bites.
•For retailers, it provides the opportunity to spend ad dollars on people actually looking to buy, and a chance to level the playing field by communicating local availability of an item.
•For brands, the opportunity to communicate participating retailers gives another means of supporting your brick and mortar distribution system, and a way of growing sales. They could also advertise on the platform to impact buying decisions
•For publishers, the platform provides the opportunity to grow relevance to readers by making things like product recommendations more actionable. Not only can you recommend an item, you can now show consumers exactly where they might want to buy it. As such, it might also be a good advertiser lead gen tool.

This is an ads-supported platform. Retailers can join for free, or they can join and take advantage of the opportunity to do hyper local and highly targeted advertising to very likely buyers. They can even package up sales leads of people looking for an item.

We all know that the big retail winners over the past couple decades have been big box stores. But this platform levels the field, enabling even small retailers to capitalize on the technology and sales opportunities it surfaces. Though of course big box stores are also welcome to participate. And no doubt are and will.

One of the things that makes this a compelling platform is that Wishpond can plug into existing inventory management programs so the retailer doesn't need to manually input items and manage inventory levels. Instead, it's inventory speaks for itself.

There are other resources in this space, not least Milo and Google Blue Dot. But one of the ways that Wishpond stands out is that a business or pub can participate easily using an embeddable widget. These widgets can search inventory, show local locations, and even be embedded into distributed presences in social media. They also have an open API, which is helping them differentiate by shaping themselves as a platform rather than a retail search destination.

BTW, their blog is also an excellent resource if you just want to learn more about local and shopping and retailing in today's environment.

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