What went wrong?
There’s no reason Twitter couldn’t be successful in ecommerce, but the execution was about as unimaginative as it possibly could have been.
Twitter set up an account, @earlybird, and tweeted exclusive offers from it.
That’s it. Beyond announcing it and putting its brand behind it, Twitter didn’t integrate Earlybird into its product at all.
There was essentially no difference between Earlybird and any similar Twitter account set up by a third-party. The deals weren’t targeted based on who you followed or what you tweeted about. This was just a generic deal hose that happened to broadcast on Twitter, and that happened to be operated by Twitter.
This is an increasingly common mistake. OpenTable recently did much the same thing, launching a standard daily deal service almost completely separate from its existing site. Since OpenTable is already integrated with restaurants’ reservation systems, it is in a position to innovate in ways no one else could, but so far, it hasn’t bothered.
Seeing the huge piles of cash that Groupon is generating, everyone is trying to tack on a generic Groupon clone to their existing businesses. This is a recipe for failure.
It’s also a massive missed opportunity. Technology companies focused on real world spending are in a great place right now: real-world spending at local businesses is a market that absolutely dwarfs pure ecommerce, and tech companies are only just starting to tap into it.
Groupon is a pioneer here, but there are already Groupons enough to around. Companies looking to cash in will have to bring something more to the table.