Posts Tagged ‘yelp’

IAC Debuts Pronto: “Shopping Gone Social”

October 12, 2007

Last week I met with some great folks from IAC to discuss one of their new initiatives, Pronto (which was recently launched and is still in beta). The goal of Pronto is “shopping gone social,” and we discussed the community aspect of their new website (I guess because I’m an active member of Yelp [well, active before I started hanging out at the office until 8 or so…]).

When I started poking around the site I felt this may be the first social networking hub that could actually make money. I’m not clued in on the details, but here was my thought process: I have friends with their own podcast, and at their points of distribution (blogs, etc.) they have Amazon, iTunes, and other affiliates set up. So every time a user clicks on a little Amazon badge and ends up buying something, they get a (very) small part of the revenue. Pronto is structured around liking or disliking products and the reviews users make about these products; you can also compare shopping outlets online to make purchases. Now if the people at Pronto were able to set something up like my friends have with their affiliates, it could bring in great revenue (but I don’t know the intricacies of how or even if that could be accomplished).

But if that doesn’t work, they could have “Featured Stores” on the Product Review pages, where online outlets pay to be at the top of the list. And to deflect any complaints from users, they could be open about why those stores are on top, such as “Shop With The People Who Love Us More” (kidding… well, not really). Or, have a featured brand of the day where certain companies could pay to have a special presence on the website for a period of time; I have something in mind like Pandora, because although that site, according to the founder, is still losing “an armful of money every month,” I’ve read elsewhere they have incredibly high click-through rates on banner ads. Anyways, the site presents many possibilities.

Our conversation last week got me to thinking about what makes social-networking sites successful. I think sites like Myspace and Facebook fall into their own category because the main point is to keep in touch with friends. Other sites, such as Yelp, have built strong online communities with people who, for the most part, have never met but eventually take time to meet offline and hang out. I think the critical attribute about Yelp is it’s local focus, which is something users can unite around (such as the MTA meltdown due to rain; that was New York-specific and we could all post about it online). For Pronto, the one thing I can foresee users uniting around are brands. For instance, I’m not usually into brands, but I do dig Apple and Guess jeans; when those groups form on Pronto, I’ll be one of the first to sign up. This could be achieved through a few ways: showing on profiles other users who have similar tags, or, like Last FM, show users their compatibility (based on similar likes/dislikes). The second thing that makes other sites successful is their, what was basically called “ego stroking.” On Yelp you can send compliments, rate user reviews, get a Review of The Day, and on and on. Anything along these lines could help keep users engaged. Finally, ease of use is critical. Using Yelp again as an example, one of things I enjoy most about it is how easy it is to interact with others: to give someone a compliment, I do not have to click through to another page because all compliments (and private messages) can be sent through a little pop-up box, which doesn’t interfere with how I’m utilizing the site.

In the meantime, Pronto does have its bugs to fix. Such as having copies of my replies to other users in the Inbox, to fixing the search help (when looking for a Motorola Q, suggestions came up before I finished typing; one suggestion was “Motorola Q smartphone” which I clicked but brought me to a page of accessories instead). Also, I can’t imagine what goes into normalizing all those products. That must be one helluva task. But at least they payoff (pun intended) could very much be worth it.