It always takes a while for Asian trends to hit stateside, but here’s one that doesn’t involve anime or video games. It’s shopmobbing, and Springwise/Trendwatching first wrote about back in the spring of 2007 when they identified team-buying sites taking off in China. The idea is, if you can get together a lot of people who want the same things you do, then why not demand a steep discount from the retailer in exchange for securing them a massive insta-sale? Buyers are happy, sellers are happy — it’s a match made in retail heaven.
Thankfully the concept has slowly but surely made its way westward in the form of Groupon, a daily email blast that offers massive discounts for the organized masses. Groupon was started by the same people who brought us ThePoint.com, a fantastic community mobilization site based on that Gladwellian concept you might have heard of called, the tipping point. When enough people join a group, it tips — meaning that there are enough people who have pledged time or money to an issue that is now worth really activating around, because nobody wants to donate money for a cause only to find out later that the project raised little else and never went anywhere.
Anyway, going back to shopmobbing, Groupon uses the same tipping point concept, only applied to shopping. In every daily email there is a listed price for a good or service and the minimum number of people required to “tip” the sale. So if enough people agree to pay upfront for discounted teeth whitening, everyone gets the deal. If there aren’t enough people, no deal and nobody gets charged. Groupon’s been up and running since late last year so it’s gotten to the point where so many people know about it that the daily deals tip almost automatically. That sort of takes the fun out of it because you’re pretty much guaranteed a discount rather than having to wait with bated breath to see if something will tip. But hey, it’s a great way to get some rock-bottom prices so you won’t hear this recessionista complaining!