What do you get when you connect your customers to each other? If the customers like your product (and I’d say 10 billions songs sold shows definite positive bias) you get more sales. This echo chamber is what everyone – from Facebook on down – is trying to create and while I don’t believe Apple will pull it off, I think Ping is the first step in the right direction for online sales.
First, take a gander at what El Gruber has to say about Ping. He notes: “One way or another, though, if Ping proves popular, it shouldn’t remain focused solely on music.” He comes at the Ping question from a usability standpoint – shouldn’t there be a separate Ping app? Something completely disconnected from iTunes? In this way, Apple can add books, movies, apps, and the like to Ping and separate it from the lump of code called iTunes.
Ping isn’t perfect. I’m surprised its so clunky right now. However, it does point to better things down the road.
While Apple’s decision to stick Ping into the iTunes app is fairly elementary – it essentially traps users into the Ping way of thinking and when they see the tab they become curious, potentially signing up (I’m john at crunchgear dot com, BTW. Add me. I’d like to see what music you all like) – what we are really seeing is the first social shopping app that disguises itself as a social network inside a dedicate istore. It’s very meta.
Apple is great at co-opting concepts and tweaking them to maintain allegiance to their products. Take Genius Mixes, for example. Genius Mixes are, in short, a sort of Internet radio for non-connected devices. Genius Mixes constitute themselves out of your own music, some of which you probably haven’t listened to in months or years, and give you a new way of “discovering” artists. Genius Mixes work best on big libraries and where do those libraries come from? iTunes purchases or CD ripping or, dare I say it, piracy. But once Genius digs Cory Chisel out of your library to remind you that you like soulful singer-songwriters, you could go back to iTunes and buy more goodies. That’s the thinking, anyway.
But it’s easy to see the problem with Genius Mixes – they never send you back to iTunes. Instead, you orbit around your own collection. But along comes Ping and you’re now depending on friends for your new music discovery from within Ping and now Apple is guaranteed a sale.
So extrapolate a little and we see Ping for Apps, Ping for Books, Ping for Laptops, Ping for… Shoes? Perfume? Monkey Chow? I think the thought experiment here is how Apple can expand the Ping concept to other products and then how competitors can create similar networks around already existing sales systems. Note that Ping is bolted onto an e-store and not the other way around.
I doubt Apple will start selling monkey chow, but I’m sure its in someone’s interest to grab iTunes customers as quickly as possible. Could we see Katy Perry’s candy bustier for sale next to her latest hit? I dread the thought, but welcome the opportunity to see how many of my friends buy one.
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