So the future of mobile social e-commerce will come from…Walmart? Possibly so, and it’s part of the coming social + local + mobile evolution of the ‘Net.
I’ll be blunt – until Walmart decided to drop an estimated $300 million (!) to acquire Kosmix, I hadn’t heard much if anything about that social platform company, I couldn’t tell you with any level of expertise what specifically they bring to the Walmart table.
What’s striking to me, rather, is what this says about Walmarts commitment to social and mobile e-commerce, and in turn where they might pull the rest of the tech and retail industries. Because of Walmart’s almost unimaginable reach, the team they are assembling under the @WalmartLabs umbrella will have a sandbox to play in that nobody else can match in terms of influence and scale.
As Anand Rajaraman, co-founder of Kosmix said on his blog Datawocky:
We are at an inflection point in the development of ecommerce. The first generation of ecommerce was about bringing the store to the web. The next generation will be about building integrated experiences that leverage the store, the web, and mobile, with social identity being the glue that binds the experience. Walmart’s enormous global reach and incredible scale of operations — from the United States and Europe to growing markets like China and India — is unprecedented. @WalmartLabs, which combines Walmart’s scale with Kosmix’s social genome platform, is in a unique position to invent and build this future. (emphasis added)
What;s so interesting about this is the “next generation” of e-commerce Anand describes also neatly parallels the ongoing evolution in the social Web overall. The first generation of the social web was about bringing personal expression online, largely in the form of blogs. The second generation, which we’re living through the very end of, was about using that personal expression to build vast social networks, as embodied by the few highly dominant social network vendors currently on top (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, most notably).
The third generation of the social Web is very close to what Anand describes above, and what John Doerr refers to as “So Lo Mo” or Social-Local-Mobile. In this coming generation it’s about capturing the online social experience and meshing it with the power of location services and smart mobile devices to connect the online social with the social experience where you are, right now, offline. The online social ceases being a separate place to interact, and instead evolves to an enhanced reality overlaying your offline world.
Connecting that new generation of the So Lo Mo driven Web with e-commerce, as described by Anand, is the natural next step and one we’re seeing begin to take shape through current location-based review services, the immense popularity of mobile versions of 2nd-generation social networks such as Facebook, instant price comparisons and social recommendations via barcode or QR code smart apps, mobile group buying via Facebook Deals, and the coming wave of NFC-driven promotions and opportunities.
On the e-commerce side, the vast sandbox Anand and the Kosmix team just gained access to – otherwise known as Walmart big box stores – could provide an enormous jumpstart to making that generational transition happen even fast than expected.