mobility on fire

Morris Kaplan

Morris Kaplan is a guest blogger.

Morris Kaplan, one-time stockbroker and venture capitalist, brings his finance skills and recent experience as a business journalist and writer to IT, with a special interest in telecoms and how communications is being transformed by technology.

What do price comparison sites and deal-of-the-day websites have in common? Not much expect both sectors booming.

Living Social only the second biggest of its deal-of the-day sector, has more than 1.2million shoppers have already signed up to their combined database and hundreds of thousands of coupons have been sold.

Meanwhile the comparison sites are on fire with the big search engines acquiring business both here and in the UK.

iSelect, which was founded in 2000 as a private health insurance intermediary but has since expanded into car insurance, life insurance and more recently travel insurance and home loans, sold a 10.2 per cent stake in the business to US private equity group Spectrum Equity Investors for $30.2 million.

In Britain, search giant Google last week paid £37.7 million for BeatThatQuote.com, which operates in the financial services area. These businesses are clearly growing and so is the sector.

There is of course a common denominator and that is both are internet-powered; indeed both having very strongly growing mobile phone user bases – especially the deal of the day sites which send out messages to members.

Mobility and the internet are rapidly converging thus offering telecoms providers challenges, especially where there are legacy issues involved.

Following on the heals of the deal-of-the-day phenomenon is the latest mobile communications trend: location based applications. This is where applications-enabled smart phones are becoming the essential tool for both business and social.

FourSquare, a derivative of the rise of deal-of the-day site, is a social media business. A location-based social network/mobile application is where users “check in” at venues on their iPhones, BlackBerrys, Android and other smart phones to share with friends via mobile updates, or updates to their Twitter and/or Facebook pages.

FourSquare works by having businesses and other shops register a profile. Once registered customers can then check in to those locations and tell their friends where they are and what they’re doing.

Businesses can also promote deals and discounts over the FourSquare app, drawing in new people. A business participating may, for example, put up a profile saying “every second check-in receives a 10 per cent discount”, which any customer can see on the app.

Commentators are now pointing to this new service as the next “big thing” and evidence of a growing trend towards location-based marketing. Businesses are taking up the offer to participate in this “no lose” scenario. Mobility is “on fire.”

Tags: wireless, comparison sites, smart phones

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