Wednesday, May 03, 2006

To Have and to Want (Rant on SwapTree)

I was reading about in Business 2.0. It's a service that lets users exchange books/CDs/movies/games. You create an account, enter UPC codes for no-longer-wanted things, and submit a list of items you'd be willing to trade them for. SwapTree's system scans for matches and shows you potential exchanges. Once a proposed transaction has been accepted by all parties involved, SwapTree sends out instructions and ready-to-print mailing labels to each participant.

Business 2.0 says SwapTree is notable for being the first online bartering system that facilitates multi-party trades. For instance:

A sends B a book
B sends C a game
C sends D a movie
D sends A a CD

According to SwapTree's developers, an early version of their system took 20 minutes to set up its first 4-way trade. Now multi-party matches are made in just 1/5 of a second.

Is such a complex algorithm really necessary? Couldn't SwapTree's functionality be provided through a simpler system?

1. Users submit lists of Haves and Wants. SwapTree aggregates info.

2. Instead of waiting for SwapTree to set up trades, users look for opportunities on the aggregated Have and Want lists. Search results could be filtered by location, or limited to exchange partners who own specific items.

3. Users earn one SwapTree point for sending each item to another participant. They redeem points by requesting items from others. All items have the same value (as SwapTree's founder puts it, used media is "all worth about the same to people who have already read, view or otherwise consumed them").

I think points offer more flexibility than simultaneous exchanges. Users can immediately offload items they have on hand, and use credits they accumulate on a newer movie or game that might become available at a later time. And given SwapTree's 100% ad-supported business model, a points system is also more conducive to interactive sponsorship programs. SwapTree says it can help advertisers find targeted audiences because they know what users have and want: if someone's profile contains references both Spiderman movies, they could be shown a preview of #3.

But instead of just displaying a sponsor's ads, why not offer the opportunity to award SwapTree points for users to make purchases, participate in market research or attend events? Or redeem points for discounted prices on overstocked or discontinued items? Advertisers will love the guaranteed results - and the points cost SwapTree nothing. That would be a much easier sell than cost-per-impression advertising.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, check out www.bookins.com, they do what you are suggesting.

9:06 AM  

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