The mobile/real time internet will eliminate the distinction between “online” and “offline”

London Bridge (Tower Bridge) : Reflection on t...
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I’ve been trying to massage this into something coherent for a week now.  I give up, here it is.

The mobile* and real time internet will eliminate the distinction between “offline” and “online”  by enabling consumers (and businesses to leverage data collected online to optimize offline experiences, and vice versa.

Use yelp or city search to pick a restaurant.  Use an online price comparison search to choose a store.  Since it’s inception, the internet has enabled consumers to leverage online silos of information and rec engines to plan their offline behavior.

“Plan” is the key word here.  People had to 1) use the internet to evaluate a course of action then 2) perform the action.  Planning and doing activities were separated by the distance between your event and your computer. “Online” meant “sitting behind your computer in your office or home.”  “Offline” meant everywhere else.  No longer.

Those days are coming to an end.  The internet is becoming ubiquitous, and the way we make decisons “in the field” is going to change.  Information access will be 24/7, location agnostic and that is going to lead to some interesting changes.

For example.  Right now, Yelp doesn’t know what restaurants you frequent unless you write reviews.  Likewise, if you buy a book at the Strand (a local NYC book store), it is not factored into your Amazon book suggestions.  Even if you spend every day at the courts, Zappos doesn’t tell you about the new basket shoes they have in stock if you buy at footlocker.  The same goes for what magazines you read, the store you wander into, and the places you hang out.  Until now, your online service vendors have been ignorant (and unoptimized) for your offline behavior.

Imagine if your Google reader knew what books you thumbed through in barnes and noble.  Or if the Economist.com knew which articles you read in the magazine.  Imagine how much more targeted Yelp’s recs would be if they knew that you frequent falafel stands not Le Cirque.  As the mobile internet makes passive “offline” data capture becomes less costly and more ubiquitous, data collected about previously “offline” behaviors will be factored into your online experience/rec engines.

Once your loccation becomes a commodity piece of data, Zappos will not need a physical presence to acquire customers at the running track.  They can ask you about your new shoes when you log an hour at the basketball court.   Within minutes of arriving in the SoHo Ralph Lauren, Gilt Groupe tell you all about it’s new batch of deals. Thus, the mobile internet will enable companies that primarily transact online to acquire customers “offline” or in the field.

I’ve got a torrent of thoughts about this subject but I’m going to cut myself off.   More to come.  Please let me know if this made sense and where clarification is needed.

*As an amazing article on the mobile industry review says “there is no mobile internet: there is only the internet.”  I completely agree.  I am referring to ubiquitous access to the information on the internet.

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2 responses to “The mobile/real time internet will eliminate the distinction between “online” and “offline”

  1. Blake Johnson

    Brett I agree with the general gist of what you are saying here. However, I think there are a number of things that have to happen first. We are far from there yet.

    • Blake,
      I’m inclined to think we are only a few years away. Throw out what you consider to be the major roadblocks for discussion.
      b

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