Mobile’s next gold rush: When location meets expiring inventory

A report focused on the habits of mobile users that was recently released by JiWire had some great little nuggets about the patterns of engagement for those of us who use location-based services like Foursquare or Places.
Amid the usual questions that need to be asked there was one tiny little statistic that really resonated with me – it was the second-to-lowest response on the question about what type of information users are interested in receiving when using these services, right ahead of “other.”

Product Inventory

10% of respondents were interested in product inventory. Checking into a location to see if their product was in stock. 10% struck me as high so I can only assume that the people who were responding to this survey were the more location-adept kind but it is still a number that should be watched as it will continue to climb steadily. Now, this might seem like a useful number but I think there is one that will start to emerge even more as this technology matures: Expiring Inventory

Expiring Inventory

This is an old-school term for things that have a specific due date: Tickets to shows or sporting goods, the yogurt in your fridge, newspapers (well, news in general) and even things like seats in a restaurant, pay-as-you-go cellular minutes, coupons or discounts and movies or shows. This is where a great opportunity is to service the location-aware crowd.

The opportunity lies in how that data gets into the right hands at the right time.

Knowing if a store has the shoes you are looking for is one thing but, for the most part, to use the inventory model detailed in the JiWire report, you would have to know the product name and the store you are looking to buy them from. With expiring inventory you could be standing in a place like Times Square, a hunger pain in your belly and no reservations anywhere. Pull out your phone, let it know where you are and see what restaurant has an open table right now.

Flexible Pricing

I’m sure you’ve seen the for sale items at your local grocery – “quick sale” is a better term. Anything with an expiry date close to today is either going into the garbage or will be sold at a reduced price to get some value from it. Airline seat sales or standby sales are another great example of an expiring good – the seat has a cost and leaving it empty for a flight means the airlines bear that cost. Filling it with someone, even for a discount, defers the cost for the airlines.

Pricing needs to be flexible but slightly modified compared to expiring milk and an empty red-eye. Certain goods – event tickets for example – are very well suited for a “quick sale” type pricing where it could be heavily discounted as the show time draws nearer. Filling a seat in a theatre or sports arena has no real additional cost to the venue but has the potential for them to generate some more revenue from concessions and perhaps even brand loyalty.
Other expiring goods – such as restaurant service – bears a cost and needs to be handled differently and this is where drawing people in with a coupon may be the way to go to entice people to come off the street and give the food a try.

The combination of inventory and location is very powerful but adding context makes it irresistible to the consumer in a way that no other technology has done before.

What do you think?

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

  • OTR transportation logistics is a classic use case. Freight needs moved. Truck availability goes from none to plentiful depending upon the rate. Entire system is flexible over time, rates are getting more real time all the time.

    Bidding on pay per click advertising is a more advanced and real time example.

    Widespread and mobile, applied to inventories of everything, promises to cut waste and boost efficiencies. Better world for all. Who will capture mindset and market share and actually do it?

  • We are starting to see small-scale implementation today. Think UberCab and a few similar initiatives. There seems to be good opportunity for great growth here.

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