The Creeping Utility of Camera Phones

I remember the first time I saw someone take a picture of a whiteboard, thinking at the time how clever it was but also how it rendered the expensive whiteboard printing devices we had utterly useless by comparison. Over the years the creeping utility of the camera phone has permeated so many aspects of my day to day life that it’s hard to imagine life without one.

Tonight I was involved in an accident, the driver of the other car ran into me at a stoplight, while I was stopped, and did some pretty significant damage to my vehicle. Almost immediately I began snapping off pictures of the 2 cars and location, and when it came time to swap information I took images of his drivers license and insurance information.

When I arrived home I took a couple of minutes to capture a Google Maps image of where the accident occurred, and I sent my images straight from my camera to my insurance agent, with a bullet point list of what/when/where/how details.

The entire process was so different than if I had been in a similar situation even just a few years ago, and for bonus points I used the flashlight application on my Samsung Galaxy S II to inspect the damage before attempting to drive home…

Flash Sale Sites On a Roll in Retail

Gilt Groupe was one of the pioneers… the concept is simple, create scarcity for highly desirable merchandise in a time or unit limited online sale that relied on social channels for promotion. Wham. Slam dunk. It’s been all the rage in online retail and shows no sign of abating.

Gilt has expanded into multiple categories…

HauteLook quickly followed (and then got acquired).

Amazon launched their MyHabit site with sales starting at 9am PST every day and quickly selling out of the most popular sizes.

American Express launched VentePrivee, which is probably better described as a joint venture between Amex and VentePrivee.

Bluefly recently launched Belle & Clive, which is interesting because of what it isn’t… exclusively devoted to high volume fashion brands densely packed in pixel packed pages, instead focusing on streamlined design in the Gilt template that included mainstream brands but also high end fashion brands, so if you want to buy your significant other an Hermes angora robe coat for $3,300, this is your site.

Ideeli.com is another popular flash sale site, as is RueLaLa.com.

I’m surprised that Net-a-Porter.com, a high end fashion retailer with a mens focused site called MrPorter.com, hasn’t launched a flash sale site, although they do have a site called OutNet.com that mimics many of the attributes of a flash sale site.

Look for retail sites in all categories to get in on this, and what is interesting is that these sites are not necessarily the lowest price options available online. If you look at the positioning closely what you find is merchandise selection, private sale exclusivity (brick and mortar retail has used the notion of private and pre-sale for years, this is not a new thing), shipping and return convenience, and yes, good prices all forming the differentiating factors that separate flash sale from traditional online retail.