We’ve never had so many ways to share things of interest. The social web lets us send out a constant stream of Facebook likes, Twitter tweets, Foursquare check-ins, social commerce reviews, and other recommendations about things we’ve experienced and want to share with our friends. These products, restaurants, movies, recipes, songs, places, articles, etc. make up our contribution to the dynamic, ever-expanding nexus of people and interests referred to as the interest graph. So far, so good-but while the social web has been highly effective in giving us ways to express our “likes” of things we’ve already done, it has yet to address the other side of the interest graph: the trusted referrals and recommendations we receive from our friends, as well as the things we discover on our own, and want to buy, read, visit, or listen to later. In other words: our “wants.”
While “likes” are things you’ve already experienced, “wants” are typically interests you’ve come across when you weren’t actively seeking them: your friend raves about a restaurant you’ll just love in Paris, but you’re not leaving the States any time soon. You hear about the DSLR camera of your dreams, but you’re not due for a major self-indulgence for a while. You do want to take action on these wants; just not right away. This is the essence of “deferred intent.”
Consumers, publishers, and brands alike need a better way to deal with deferred intent. Consumers need a way to use the interest graph as the ultimate to-do list, winnowing a vast sea of options into a personalised, manageable collection of wants to be acted on later. For businesses, the opportunity is to translate these interests and trusted recommendations into high-value leads driven by consumer intent.
A few first steps have already been taken in this direction. Services like Boxee, ExFM, Hunch, and Foursquare provide features that let you save referrals and recommendations to be read, watched, or listened to later. But unlike your own memory, which can easily browse across interests of all types, regardless of their origin, the wants captured through these services are siloed in a dizzying number of places: reading material in one place, music in another, restaurants in another, and so on. The same can be true even within a single category: you’ve got recipes saved at Epicurious.com, Chow, and the Food Network-how are you supposed to remember which is where? Modality adds yet another layer of complexity: what if your friend tweets a video link that you see on your iPhone but you want to watch it later on your iPad or connected TV? As the diversity of modalities increases for both discovering wants and taking action on them, managing deferred intent will only become more complex, cumbersome, and homework-like.
And keeping track of your wants across all these silos is only the beginning. Each one still requires additional work on your part before you can actually reap its benefits. You’ve heard about a great restaurant on Foursquare-but you still have to search for reviews, look up the menu, and make the reservation, all in different places. This friction erodes the value of the interest graph for both consumers and businesses.
After all, interest in itself isn’t valuable-action is. You may be interested in a product or movie, but it’s only when you buy it or see it that you derive real value. The same goes for the brand or publisher in question: being found interesting is all well and good, but it’s actual conversions that fill the till.
There has to be a better way for consumers and businesses to benefit from the “wants” side of the interest graph. Acting on deferred intent shouldn’t have to mean searching for old likes and check-ins across multiple services, then doing a lot of legwork to follow up on each one. Consumers should have an easy way to capture and organise the interests they discover when out and about, browsing the web and through recommendations from their friends.
Timing is also key. While likes are real-time, wants are for later, when the time is right-when you’re ready to buy a new camera, visit a destination, see a movie. Sometimes, the right time might be influenced by the business itself: when there’s a sale on the camera, a new flight to the destination, the movie is available on DVD. In either case, better visibility would be a win-win for both sides. The more easily you can find a recommendation from a trusted source, the more readily you can act on it when the time is right. On the other hand, if a business knows that you have an active interest in its product or service, it should be able to reach out proactively with timely information and offers-and perhaps make right now the right time.
By giving consumers a better way to act on deferred intent, we can help them unlock the value of their wants, help businesses provide them with relevant and timely information, and make the interest graph truly useful and actionable for enriching our lives with new experiences.