Tell Me Where You Spend Your Time, And I’ll Predict Your Next Purchase

Om Malik wrote an interesting piece yesterday on where he sees the future of social commerce moving. In a nutshell, he says that the first phase of e-commerce was fairly utilitarian and started with staples (Diapers.com, Amazon.com, etc.). E-commerce then moved to recreational shopping (Gilt Groupe, Groupon, etc.), which made it more fun and social.

The next phase, he maintains, will leverage people’s interest graphs. He specifically mentions Hunch’s prediction engine, Apple’s “Ping” platform for social music sharing and discovery, and Facebook’s social graph as potential predictors of interests and spending habits.

I think Om’s on the right track, but I’d take it a step further. I believe that the next phase of social commerce will be based on more than social graphs and interests – it will be based on actual behavioral data.

People are growing more comfortable sharing information about where and with whom they spend their time. Foursquare is not just a game or a way to find your friends when you’re out drinking. It’s a database of places you’ve visited and likely spent money. In short, it’s an extensive record of how you choose to use two of your most precious resources: time and money.

Foursquare and Facebook Places are capturing real-time information about actual behavior, not just “intent” (like a Google search, for example). This data of how, where and with whom we spend time is incredibly valuable, and it will likely prove to be an excellent predictor of future behavior and future purchases. Just because I’m friends with someone on Facebook doesn’t mean we have the same spending habits. But if a stranger and I are visiting the same bars, coffee shops and clothing boutiques, it’s probably safe to say our tastes and demographics are aligned.

The old adage “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are” might still hold true, but I think the future of social commerce will adopt the motto “tell me where you spend your time/money, and I’ll predict your next purchase.”

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