The Future of Purchasing – It’s All About Social Status

By Wednesday September 28th, 2011

The future of purchasing just might come down to your social status and how you interact with your friends and followers on the social web. This post proposes a not too distant future where your clout (or Klout) effects what you have access to, how and when you receive benefits and what you're required to pay.

Imagine It’s 2015…
Everything you do in life is somehow connected to your mobile devices. Yup, devices. You can’t eat, shop, hang out or make a decision without consulting the web or publishing every detail to your social network immediately after you make it. If you’re addicted to your smart phone now, think what it will be like in four years.You walk into a big brand apparel store (assuming they still exist in 2015) and scan an item that catches your eye. This immediately generates reviews, price comparisons, photos and video content showing every pattern and angle of the product you could ever need, even real people that are your size and shape in that exact garment. Who needs to try it on – no time for that anyhow.Then, you tap “check out” on your phone because who needs a cash register in 2015. Before you confirm your purchase and pay directly from your bank account, you’re asked to “Use your social status to apply for discounts.”

Sure, Why Not Press The Button?
You’re an avid user of Twitter and you’re pushing 2,000 friends on Facebook. You check the box and watch while the application computes your social status. It comes back with a score of 35 out of 100 and offers $5 off your purchase if you share your new buy with friends on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Decisions, decisions. Do you share your purchase with everyone you know? That’s pretty annoying. If you only share it with your “shopping circle” on Google+, you get $1.50 off. Is it even worth it?

You press the button. The price for the garment drops $1.50 and your transaction is complete. You casually show your on-screen receipt as you pass by the employee at the door. He offers you a bag, and you accept. The clothing brand just paid $1.50 to blast your inner circle with some free marketing. Well, not free, but for a lot less than it would cost to reach the same amount of people with an ad in a magazine or an online ad campaign, and hopefully with more credibility.

It’s Already Begun…
For those of you tech types and marketers who are aggressively driving the engine into this future of purchasing, good for you. Klout, for example is making noise with their social status ranking, the Klout Score. If you go to and connect your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, they’ll give you a score and attempt to tell you what topics you’re considered “influential” in. On top of that, they’re already working with businesses to identify top influencers to offer them perks. An interesting example is the promotion of Stephen King’s new book Mile 81, where based on your Klout score, readers receive a free e-book download in exchange for Tweeting out the promotion and the book.

Take this a step further in the future. Imagine every product, every restaurant and every event you’re interested in calculates your social score as you walk through the door. If you want to get in, you better tell your friends you’re at the club. If you want to get in without a door charge, you better have a high social status.

There Are Some Concerns…
There are a few major problems with the future of shopping, as it pertains to social status and buying, and why it may run into some serious push-back. Giving discounts as an incentive to share a purchase on Facebook promotes biased brand advertising (what many would consider social media garbage) jamming up your feed. If your Facebook feed is full of “I bought this and that”, you’re going to stop trusting your friends.

Another problem is the rich and influential get the price breaks while the poor and tech-illiterate don’t get the deal. It accentuates the disparity between the social class that buys every new iteration of the iPhone and the everyday cell phone user that has never heard of a data plan or downloaded a mobile app. But do these people shop at Banana Republic or Victoria Secret anyhow, and do they even exist in 2015? Sure they do. Only 27% of US mobile phones are currently smartphones (according to comScore’s 2010 Mobile Year In Review report). Globally, only 1 of 5 people own smartphones. But, what will that number look like in 2015 and what percentage of people will use their smartphones to browse and buy on a daily basis? Assuming smartphone growth continues at it’s current rapid pace, by 2015 there will be a new value put on each customer, and these brands (the smart ones, anyway) will achieve as much social publicity as they can get from their socially-savvy consumers.

The Truth Is…
If you aren’t carrying an expensive smart phone and aren’t spending time on the social web, people still care about you. You will simply become less and less valuable in the eyes of your favorite brands and will be penalized, paying top dollar for their products. It’s high school all over again. Lady Gaga gets paid thousands for an endorsed tweet. You get nothing…unless you’re one of the cool kids (based on your calculated online social ranking) of course.

This article was originally published in Philly Ad News

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About the Author

Jason is co-founder and CEO of Brolik, a digital agency in Philadelphia. As an entrepreneur, Jason is passionate about helping other business owners navigate the complicated journey of owning a business and developing marketing strategies to grow their brand.
Follow @jaybrew on Twitter or connect with Jason on LinkedIn or Google+