Groupon has made a name for itself as a social-commerce wonder.
The site, which offers discounts that come into force once a certain number of consumers purchase them, "effectively invented social commerce," one of its investors told the Chicago Tribune. On Wednesday, Groupon announced it had secured $50 million in additional funding to start deals in 50 new cities, which would bring its total to 95 cities. Whether you're interested in paying $45 for a $74 ski pass in Boston or $185 for $900 worth of laser hair removal in Los Angeles, that's probably a good thing.
But Groupon is just the tip of the social commerce iceberg. For one, it's not that social: the deal doesn't involve any real interaction between purchaser and vendor or purchasers with one another.
Here are three other social commerce groups that have the potential to get people shopping more socially than ever before.
The Next Big Thing from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is a small plastic box that makes Apple's iPhone and iTouch into a mobile credit-card reader. After plugging the Square into the item's headphone jack, your friendly neighborhood street vendor can now take your plastic — and e-mail or text you your receipt. Loyalty cards to get that tenth free beverage? Forget 'em. Your Square account stores all that data online. Set to be rolled out widely early in 2010, Square has the ability to revolutionize everything from Craigslist purchases to cab rides in one fell swoop.
Boston-area mobile shoppers can share some holiday cheer through Kangogift, a service that allows you to buy surprises like dinners, chocolate, and flowers for that special someone and then surprise them with it via text message. The recipient need only bring the message to the retailer in question to pick up their prize. While limited in scope, Kangogift is a social improvement for the sheer fact that it eliminates perhaps the most impersonal holiday gift of all: gift cards.
Geolocation never tasted so good — or so free. By "checking in" at various points around town through their mobile application, Foursquare enables users to connect socially by seeing which of their friends might be in the same area at a given time. But businesses are getting in on the act, too, plying foursquare "mayors" (those who have checked in from a location with the most frequency) with free grub and announcing deals through other social media to lure foursquare-ers into their shops.