The Future of Social-Mobile-Geo-Offer Applications – SMOG alert

I’m very interested in the social-mobile-geo-offer space; I don’t think there is a more dynamic corner of the tech/on-line space at the moment.  I’d lump everyone from Groupon & clones to Foursquare to Facebook Places/ Yelp! to QRANK and the 100+ other iPhone apps into that mix.  To be clear, when I say “geo” I mean “location aware.”

Maybe we should call this category Social-Mobile-Offer-Geo so we can use SMOG as the acronym.  …and so much dust has been kicked up in this space that the outlook is anything but clear these days.

The reason I’m interested in this space is because I believe social-mobile-offer-geo all have (or will SOON have) a similar value proposition to businesses: to (1) Engage consumers; then (2) Acquire consumers; and finally (3) Retain consumers.  Hey – that’s a good acronym too: these would be the EAR value goals

These consumers may be the patrons of local bars and restaurants; they may be national GAP shoppers or they may be random consumers who have opted-in to a mobile game/tool/utility that are unaffiliated with a particular target business category (other than “local”) like Foursquare and Gowalla users.

I believe that we’ve witnessed a relatively massive rationalization in the past 12 months:  that social-mobile-geo-offer applications are, in essence, targeted opt-in marketing tools.  How these tools will be employed is just now being figured out and will vary widely.

Note that Groupon is great at Job #1 and #2 (Engage and Acquire Consumers) but has fallen flat on Job #3 – retain.  Many local businesses have complained that Goupon delivered a swarm of bargain hunters that would never be loyal customers.  Foursquare seems to do pretty good at Job #3 for itself – since you have to keep coming back to the app to ever ascend to “Mayor” status – but they are just now figuring out how to translate user’s attention from the application to local businesses.

Today, all these applications deliver varying degrees of success and traction across the Engagement, Acquisition, and Retention value propositions.

alright then, what’s the future?  I’m going to leave it high level and come back to this concept soon.

I believe that the future of SMOG applications is tied directly to targeting specific industries and verticals:  automotive, Insurance, Healthcare, whatever.  Someone is going to make a ton of money by taking generic social-mobile-offer-geo capabilities and focusing them on differentiated value and unique vertical-specific twists.  Today, these apps are spread like peanut butter across almost all local businesses and all consumers…the future is verticalization.  Is that a word?

…more soon

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