By John Andrews
Many people have asked me my thoughts recently about the purchase of Whrrl by Groupon. After all, not only was Collective Bias a Whrrl partner and our Social Fabric™ community a heavy user, I was also a prolific Whrrler. I’ve decided to share my thoughts, which are only that, my thoughts. I was just as surprised by the news as anyone else and have no knowledge of the deal other than what I was told in brief conversations with John Kim and various Whrrl employees.
First, the landscape. Location Based Services (LBS) are a relatively new field. Despite wide reports of its death, the field is less than 5 years old, I believe it is here to stay and will become a valuable part of the consumer experience, especially after benefits emerge beyond simple discounts and the novelty of real life game theory.
Collective Bias client MurphyUSA has seen some very promising results by offering value to customers stopping by its stations for a fill-up. While folks might not want to check in to be mayor, an opportunity for a free tank of gas or even a Coke Zero offers MurphyUSA consumers utility. Once engaged, these consumers can share via their behavior what types of offers and services Murphy might provide to increase their shopping frequency and overall enjoyment of the shopping experience.
I really enjoyed Whrrl, so much so, that it became my primary social connection stream. I checked in at almost every place I went, creating a digital footprint. I also shared my personal passion – food – with people by creating a library of dishes from dives to fine dining establishments. These check ins become part of the overall body of digital content, providing information for others to use as they seek a great place to have duck fat fries in Chicago.
I’m sure the folks at Groupon understand the potential of connecting places to conversion tools. The real secret, however, is connecting people’s voices into the shopping process. The technology is nice; however it doesn’t really do anything by itself. As many brands have quickly discovered, a Facebook presence with no engagement can be a lonely place.
As many know, Whrrl was a core component of Collective Bias activities. The service provided a window into the shopping experience at retail and helped us engage influencer voices in the strategic process to better understand what people actually want to talk about with regards to brands and their retail homes. Fortunately, the 1000+ members of the Social Fabric community are the machine, not any specific technology or platform. Other LBS services including This Moment, Bizzy, Foursquare, Google Latitude and Facebook Places now fulfill the retail connection function.
The change has been quite educational as we’re understanding more about the potential for these services and how real consumers are using them and how they connect to the retail environment. Who knows, maybe we’ll build our own LBS app for shoppers…
Whrrl was a great tool and the real functionality and promise of the platform, grouping people by their actual behavior, never got a great chance to achieve critical mass. This is a step change for how we think about marketing that stands traditional demographic targeting on its head.
John Andrews, Collective Bias Founder/CEO, has over 14 years experience with leading brands like Sara Lee, Eastman Kodak Digital, Newell Rubbermaid, and of course Walmart, where he is perhaps best known for the creation of its award winning social media platform Elevenmoms, an industry-leading online customer advocate program.