To Sale Or Not To Sale

A recent Facebook application launched from Buy.com called Garage Sale. I think it’s self-explanatory — sell your stuff to your friends on Facebook. Theory is that they know and trust you, so it’s like a “garage sale” at your house.

TechCrunch thinks this type of closed system of selling won’t work because in this scenario, sellers don’t have access to a large customer base (like on eBay), or for that matter like on edgeio.com (the TechCrunch-backed classifieds site).

I thought about this for a while especially considering our success with classifieds in the eNeighbors neighborhood sites. For instance, if eNeighbors grew to the point of millions of users, how effective would our inter-community classifieds be? Would we be able to truly replace the newspaper classifieds? Or would someone like eBay ultimately win out?

The offline print classifieds are still successful to this day due to their ability to give you the “local” view of what people are selling. All you have to do is drive over and get it. Additionally, I know that some people (like my mother) love to go hunt for hidden treasures at garage/estate sales. Putting this experience online just wouldn’t translate.

In the end, I think the answer will be whatever website your average “non-techie” internet user knows about will be the one he/she uses. Additionally, that website needs to be easy to use and not intimidating to newbies. We are doing everything we can to make eNeighbors.com be exactly that.

Does Local Search Equal A Trillion Dollars?

How many times have you gone to Best Buy to buy a new camera/TV/computer/printer and were carrying a bunch of printouts of product reviews you got from researching online first?

More and more of us are now researching purchases “online” and then buying “offline” in our respective local communities. In fact, Yahoo just released a study that confirms this behavior, and even more specifically outlines how online advertising affects offline purchase behavior.

Greg Sterling, interestingly enough, calls this behavior “Local Search” by way of his definition:

“Local search is a process where users conduct research online but with the ultimate intention or result being an offline transaction. It’s about the Internet influencing real-world buying decisions.”

In my mind, this means that “local search” really means “local buying” due to the fact that these two actions are merely steps in the traditional commerce process. In other words, you aren’t going to search for a service or product outside of your geographical vicinity if you intend to buy it offline.

Here’s the other part of Greg’s post that got my attention:

The phrase, The Trillion Dollar Marketplace, comes from recent Jupiter and Forrester e-commerce/retail reports that predict the Internet will be influencing a trillion dollars of offline (local) spending by either 2010 or 2011.

Personally, I think this estimate is a bit overly optimistic (1999 flashback, anyone?), but the point is that we spend most of our buying dollars in the physical community in which we live. You can’t buy food out of state and have it shipped (I guess you could, but it wouldn’t be hot). Most of us still like to try our clothes on before purchasing, and there’s no denying the joy of instant gratification (or less hassle of returns) of picking up that shiny new gadget toy from your local electronics store today (rather than in 7-10 business days). And if I want any type of service or repair for my house or car, guess what, it’s going to be local.

More and more, it’s becoming important for online buying guides to provide very relevant and very accurate local retail guides. Innovations like alerts to local sales and special offers or service referrals from your in-town friends and family are going to become imperative for the bricks and mortar lot to compete for those dollars that are not spent in the online channel.

Will Newspapers Survive?

There’s an excellent article in this month’s Wired by Jeff Howe about the impact the internet is having on the newspaper industry. The story centers around Gannett and their efforts to thwart the decline that the entire news world is experiencing.

Having worked for the Kansas City Star at one point in my career, I can personally vouch for the ingrained behavior of the news publication process. The internet is definitely a disruptive technology, and this article paints a very insightful picture on what the news companies must face to continue to operate in the overly saturated information age.

Towards the middle of the article, some of the details of Gannet’s new approach are presented:

At the heart of the plan lie two Big Ideas that are sweeping through journalism circles nationwide: Involve the reader in every aspect of the process, and take a so-called hyperlocal approach to news coverage. In recent years, Gannett’s Cincinnati arm has gone from producing one metropolitan newspaper to producing 270 niche publications, including suburban papers, neighborhood Web sites, and regional magazines. The readers — their thoughts, their half-baked opinions, their kids’ Little League scores — are at the center of them all.

This is the exact same result we have seen with the eNeighbors service. People really do want to know about the stuff that’s just down the street. Yes, it doesn’t matter to anyone else (so there’s no profit in it for the newspapers), but the internet now allows us to focus on a much smaller demographic and still remain cost-effective.

The voice of the masses is definitely getting heard these days. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues or if we will eventually tire of the barrage of average talent and ultimately rely on the professionals for the information that matters most.