Wednesday, February 28, 2007

45 Days to Launch!

Some of you may know that I am in the process of launching a E-commerce membership based site for Automotive enthusiasts. The unique factor for our site is that we will be essentially selling parts for our cost or close to it...In the automotive aftermarket there is a lot of price gouging so a typical e-tailer will make 10-15% on a product. When all is said and done and w/ CC fees customer acquisition and customer retention cost you end up at like 7%.

Not so hot to say the are goal was to simplify a problem for most of our target audience 17-30yr Males. PRICE!PRICE!PRICE! they will hunt through forums dive through ebay and scour thru hundred's of online choices to get the proverbial "Hook Up" . Our audience is only loyal to one thing price.. I think that they are young in their consumer experiences and haven't come to other value added differences as deal changers for them in their buying habits.

So I thought to myself how can we solve this problem...and were there examples of retailers that have solved it. Costco was the first thing to came to made sense we have relationships w/ the biggest distributors in the country all who drop ship from multiple whse's across the country.

What sets us apart from other online retailers is the fact that not only do we sell the best in performance parts for all late model imports (Asian/European) but we carry all OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts...basically parts you can get from the dealer. So a member can get anything for his car from a power steering pump to a high end turbocharger kit.

Our pricing will be lowest prices found online period. This will allow members for $9/month for 1 year contract or $99 up to have access to our wholesale pricing. Of course our main revenue generator will be from the recurring billing model. So it is key that we gain traction as soon as possible.. our goal is to sponsor between 35-45 car community's . Our goal is to have the users drive this site..we will giving away free memberships to highly active users in each community to openly discuss w/ the community the pros's and con's of our service.

Also instead of offering $5000 shopping spree ...which we originally thought of but then reconsidered it due to the fact that we might lose our identity w/ that promotion. That got me thinking on what we can do to show people what we are about without becoming members. My answer thanks to some surfing on Me.dium was a site called Woot! . They sell one thing a day for amazing prices but have a platform where the community really drives the site. We are going to be creating "vertical woot's" for our communities i.e Honda/Subaru/Nissan/Toyota etc...

Once we have gotten a chance to let people see what we are all about we have instituted a member referral system that will let members refer friends and family and get bonus points towards future purchases.

For those of you who are not familiar w/ the Automotive Aftermarket Industry it is a $30 Billion Industry.. and the Sport Compact Market is $6 Billion market and growing at 10% rate a year.

I have been in this industry for the last 6 years and the company I left last year has annual sales of $10 million in a very targeted niche market.

In the next couple of weeks I will reveal the name of the site and updates on the progress of the web development.

P.S Another company who is using a business model similar to us is CFares an online Air Travel site that has recently launched.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ning : My answer to Social Commerce?

Today I watched two video's by Robert Scoble ..The first was an interview w/ Marc Andreessen of Netscape fame and Gina Bianchini CEO of Ning . The second was the actual demo of this new and very provocative service. The reason I bring this up is that I recently wrote about how I could build a "bridge" to other social networks for our new member based site.

This service is unique in the fact that it is a simple, cheap and has a great set of tools like being able to have widgets embedded (meebo/flickr/videos/twitter) . It really allows the community creator to really tailor and be nimble towards his or her own community needs. I really like the fact that I can essentially white label this for our upcoming startup. I can make a private site if I want and the best part is our Web Developer can totally customize it from the original source code.

What I really like about this service is the ability for a relative non-technical adept person can do this quite easily.

I believe that this could be the next evolution in Social Networks due to the extreme niche targeting that can take place.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Blendah Search Engine

Well over the weekend I played w/ my Google Custom Search Engine(CSE) some more and came up w/ Social Tagging Based Search Engine. I am not very technically competent when it comes to programming etc so this is pretty easy stuff.. I registered this site on Google and use there Apps for Domain service's. I think the whole site cost me $10 for everything..

It was pretty easy to setup up the CSE. I use the refinements as / Reddit / Wikipedia / StumbleUpon / GooTube / Technorati / Flickr. I would like at some point to have an nice Ajax version of this search...

Let me know what you think?

Do you see Google CSE/CoOp as a move towards a social based search algorithm for Google?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Google Office .. We ain't seen nothin yet!

Well as most people have heard by now Google has launched a premium service targeted at small and medium size business. This is the key difference between the all out war some are calling this w/ Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft has the medium to large size business's locked up.

Google is very smart in their approach going after the long tail..a place where most of their ad revenue comes from almost $1 billion a quarter. Here is a qoute from Eric Schmidt “The surprising thing about The Long Tail is just how long the tail is, and how many businesses haven’t been served by traditional advertising sales,”.

Most small business crave a simplified office environment. Gmail is simple to use and makes life easier. Docs and Spreadsheets on the other hand is a little rough around the edges but I have a feeling enhancements will be made available quickly.

I am surprised what hasn't been talked about more is the non integration of Jotspot's Wiki tools. This is a great set of tools for a small or med. biz as a virtual intranet for resources etc.. I also expect a rumored Power Point clone very soon as well which would give Google Apps a very powerful set of tools to really take it to the next level. Now this Premium package would be very attractive to larger business's.

I think that Google is counting on people who don't want to upgrade to Vista/Office 07 but see it as inevitable as an alternative solution. Could Google really be positioning itself better than we think w/ Google Apps?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Business 2.0 ... Best Magazine ??

I have been a subscriber for Business 2.0 for the past 5 months and it is by far the best business mag out there..especially for the tech and web crowd. It seems to get better each month..they have fresh content that is actually engaging. Plus I am a huge Om Malik fan!

I do also get Entrepreneur and Inc. which are great reads as well..but are still not on the same level.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ultimate Mashup: Googlezon vs. MicroHoo

With the convergence of Mashup building platforms lately I thought I would try to Supersize this concept.

That got me thinking of the "Ultimate Web Mashup". In one corner you have w/ a Combined Market Cap of $325B "MicroHoo" and in the other corner you have the King of Search and the King of Commerce "Googlezon". all kidding aside what would the web be like if these four companies morphed into two titans?

Now lets look at these mergers..first lets take a look at the Microsoft/Yahoo tandem. It seems like a decent match if you look at it from the point that Yahoo and Microsoft both are jack of all trades , masters of none... It's a no brainer in terms of obtaining market share in search appx. 41%. to Google's 51%. Microhoo could def. flex it's muscle's in the Media area as well. Publishing could explode to the mainstream with this combination. They already are sharing the IM space together so that's a start.

Imagine what could be done w/ Vista levraging the social aspects of Yahoo and it's new Panama advertising system

What about Microhoo Mail combines the best of Yahoo Mail and Outlook...tags/rss/im/news

This Mega-Power could develop a "new media landscape" which would challenge TV. With it's combination of bringing media to the home flawlessly.. NBC/Flickr/Blogs/Videos etc..

The Google/Amazon tandem on the other hand has a more of natural relationship...their users are alike (smart/loyal) and their services are alike.. S3/EC2 which goes hand in hand w/ cloud storage and hosting that Google benefits from via Google Docs and Spreadsheets etc...And the possibilities in Search would be major as well.. imagine integrated Google Book Search via Amazon listings this could also tie into products and videos as well via Froogle and Youtube.

How about Alexa combined w/ Google Analytics

Then the most compelling aspect to this merger would be the e-commerce implications. Hmmm what if they tied Google Checkout / Amazon E Commerce /Adwords / Amazon Historical Pricing /Amazon Affiliates etc together... Googlezon could effectively chew up 51% of all online transactions! With it's combined data capabilities Web 3.0 could be here quite quickly. Think about the efficiency in which services could be rendered. Yikes! it's scary..

Mashups would be amazing combining Google and Amazon services that users could create vertical hubs that would maximize the Long Tail effect. Advertisers would see higher click thru and transaction rates due to amazingly targeted content.

These are just some random thoughts..I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Here is a video that has been around quite awhile but is still fun to watch especially how fast things are going right now in comparison to the time-line in this video.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Poor Britney !!!

You know I am not a huge "pop" fan and especially not a Britney fan..but I got to tell you..I feel really bad for her and her children.

Where are her parents? Oh that's right her parents are the ones that introduced her to this life and promoted it...

I pray that the tattoo of the cross that she got does help her find what she is looking for in her life.. as someone who has been down that path I can def. sympathize w/ her.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Can Google Hear Me ??

I caught wind of this site last night via my Rss feeds..but couldn't access it do to it getting on Digg and killing their servers.

All I have to say is I LOVE the Internet..

Please read his blog it is inspiring and really says allot about what most people think: Google= Good

Hope the idea that he is pitching lives up to the Hype...

Good Luck Aaron!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Social Commerce ???

I have been thinking allot about how to incorporate Social Networking into our new E-commerce based membership startup...forums/classifieds/member pages etc.. are all the likely suspects. The problem is that we have to build a vibrant community how do we do this and get some sense of relationship building?

It seems like their are multitudes of options out there whether it be a tools Meebo, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Me.dium and leveraging other social networking sites like Myspace , Facebook , Youtube and Flickr.

This can get intimidating quite quickly but I think that I have come up w/ a scenario that will make it easy for members to interact w/ our staff and other members in an efficient manner.

Can you have a site that incorporates a mix of Social Networking tools but doesn't have the typical infrastructure i.e forums, chat rooms, member pages?

Could we mesh the ability to use tools like Meebo which blends all major IM's (Gtalk,AIM,YIM,MSM,Jabber) together in a web based widget instead of using LivePerson?

Second would be how can we take that to the next level..a blog would be nice..but our demographic audience are primarily 18-27 males.. so we need to keep it short and simple. I came across this article from Lifehacker regarding real world applications for Twitter. Twitter is an application where you can post quick blurbs about daily happenings in your life and are sent via Sms, IM's or Blogs.

The key in my mind is somehow to use these tools to make a bridge between our site and the big boys i.e Youtube/Myspace/Facebook/Flickr.

Our strategic marketing plan is to develop relationships in community forums that are specific for our startup. Could we find a way to incorporate a community based off of Me.dium
that would give our members and fellow enthusiasts to socially surf? Maybe this is taking it to far.

Let me know what you think I should do regarding a "Social Networking Strategy"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Youtube = America's Most Wanted

I was watching the news the other night and saw that Youtube had lead to the capature of two suspected criminals...I was suprised that it wasn't a highly technical person(s) that did this.. It really speaks to the Viral nature of Youtube.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Community = Web 2.0

After reading a couple of great post's by Nic Brisbourne really got me thinking about organic viral marketing . His first post was about what makes community's succeed. It was a fascinating read especially w/ all of the news this week associated w/ Digg and Flickr and their decisions to ruffle the feathers of their initial users.

"Webforums like the Mobile Monday Yahoo Group are a good and simple example - people post news and questions to the group and over time rules have emerged governing what is allowed (anything to do with the mobile web) and what isn’t (blatant advertising). When the rules are broken people respond with lots of angry posts and if necessary the moderators wade in to sum up group opinion and explicitly say what should be allowed and what shouldn’t. Thus the group has a set of rules, is self policing and thrives because of it. If the self policing failed and the advert spam became to voluminous people would stop participating and the community would fall apart.

An interesting question then is how those rules evolve, and if you are building an online community what you can do to influence that evolution to maximise your chances of success."

By Nic Brisbourne

I am actually in the process of e-commerce/membership based startup that will be leveraging online car community's as evangelists. Our #1 concern was not to force our "service" down the members of these community's. So my first thought to gain some traction was to offer a $5k Shopping Spree for new members that sign up in Lottery. This seemed ok at the time..but I wasn't convinced that this would get us the kind of customers that we want to evangelize for us and to get a handle on our unique business model.... Well as luck would have it I was logged on to and saw a bunch of people crowed around a site called . This social commerce site sells 1 product a day...that's it and thousands of people flock to it.. to participate in online banter about the product of the day whether good or bad. The products are priced way below any thing on the net... so that may be a big attraction...but the community is really what drives it. You will typically find 300-400 comments on a given Woot Off!

So this really got me thinking about how we can engage our potential new members in an honest way that really depicts who we are: Bring a Woot style format everyday for individual automotive communities that we advertise in to help us get out our message. We are a site that solves the problem of all car enthusiasts: "Getting the best parts in one place for the best price"

Quote from Nic Brisbourne

"Pre-critical mass there is no natural network value, so your entire value proposition can only be about personal value. That worked fine for and Flickr because storing bookmarks and photos gives a lot of personal value - it doesn’t work for e.g. review sites, because until there is a critical mass of reviews there is not much value to the consumer."

I am banking that our startup will give that personal value to customer...