Blippy’s Purchase-Sharing Model: Innovative, Creative And Dead-Wrong. Plug Pulled.

Written by Frank Hayes
May 25th, 2011

How much do customers actually want to share? It’s a question that haunts retailers when it comes to social networks. On May 19, the CEO of Blippy, one of the most extreme shopping-sharing sites that has now given up on its much-vaunted share-my-purchases-with-the-world model, acknowledged that most shoppers just didn’t get excited about the idea of publicizing every purchase they made with a credit card. In social-network terms, Blippy failed because almost nobody “Liked” it—the result of a colossal miscalculation about what and why customers like to share.

Sharing on social networks could be a CRM bonanza—there’s a seemingly endless flood of data on what people are doing and buying. Retailers know how valuable that data can be and how hard it is to pry information loose from customers, which makes social tantalizing. But it’s easy to forget that helping retailers isn’t why customers are playing the social game. Neither is throwing away every shred of privacy. It may be that what social users really want is some attention—and their purposes don’t always align with those of retailers.

“There is some flawed thinking about privacy with today’s consumers, primarily the Millennials,” said Todd Michaud, the IT VP for Focus Brands (Carvel, Cinnabon, Schlotzsky’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Auntie Anne’s and Seattle’s Best Coffee Int’l). “I think many people, including Facebook executives, assume that what they are experiencing is the effect of people ‘shedding privacy.’ In my opinion, what is happening is people are actually saying, ‘Look at me!’ They aren’t shedding their privacy as much as they are competing for attention from anyone who will give it.”

That sounds like Blippy would be a good fit, turning every purchase into conspicuous consumption. Not exactly, according to Michaud. “Blippy is a good example of how some people are willing to over-share to get attention, but most are not,” he said. “Blippy probably works in a world where ‘privacy is dead,’ but doesn’t really work in a ‘Look at me!’ world because it gets really intimate really quickly. Most people have a line, and I think we have found out Blippy goes past it.”

Only about 100,000 users actually signed up for Blippy, according to CEO Ashvin Kumar, and a mere 30,000 ever shared a purchase. (The number of people sharing dropped dramatically after a data leak exposed payment-card information for a handful of users.)

Those aren’t impressive numbers by Facebook standards, and they weren’t enough to make Blippy interesting as a target for CRM data mining by retailers.

That, of course, is social’s great fear: that no one will come to the party, and that those who do come won’t hang around once it’s clear that the cool kids aren’t showing up.


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