Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wikis: New Trend For Consumer Oriented Web Sites?

Wikis have been around for a while. The open source community has long been using them as a means of communicating project updates and documentation. The Wikipedia phenomenon has played a significant role in increasing awareness and demonstrating the power of Wikis. Now it is time for consumer oriented web sites to jump on the band wagon and leverage Wikis as a means to provide better alignment and customer focus for their web sites. How much customer focused can you be? There seems to be a trend for a new generation of consumer web sites to leverage Wikis as a way to foster their community involvement and provide better customer focus. Granted customer reviews have been around for a while; just select one product on Amazon and consumer reviews usually abound. The paradigm shift here? The entire site content is driven by the community. This has the potential for early adopters to disrupt their industry business models. Some examples:
  • Trip Advisor: This is probably the best example. Trip Advisor is opening its travel guides content to the community at large. If this takes off, this could be quite disruptive to the travel guide industry. No more outdated content; get to read about the not so-well known places to visit. Leverage millions of tourists and local inhabitants to participate in writing Trip Advisor travel guides content. Look at what Wikipedia did to the Encyclopedia industry...
  • Product Wiki: Another good example of what consumer shopping web sites could become. Let your community decide what you should sell and talk about. This could be fairly disruptive as well. Sell what your customers are looking for and develop micro communities of shopping web sites where customers drive what should be on the product catalog. The risk here is that, third party resellers figure out the trick to push and promote their own products. But with the proper controls in place, this concept has some potential.
  • Wet Paint: Provide a framework to create Wikis focused on specific consumer areas. Check out Wiki XBox 360 for the XBox fans.
This is just a small subset of the next generation of consumer web sites and still very much a work in progress. But well worth a few minutes of blogging...