Imagine a world where there was nowhere to shop but massive supermarkets. For some that might not be that far away from the reality of physical shopping these days, but for most of us, to various degrees, we still rely on a mix of generalist and specialist retailers (even if, increasingly, we go and look at the goods we want to buy at a specialist and then purchase from a generalist – the modern high street malaise…).
A world of generalist shopping is also the reality today for the world of finding Apps. If you are a Windows or iOS user, you have a choice of one shopping destination; if you are an Android user there are a few more options available to you (Amazon have an Android App store running alongside the Google Play service, for example). In any of those device worlds, though, you’re limited to shopping with generalists.
As the App economy starts to evolve, might we see the emergence of specialist App stores? Could I find a place to shop that specialised in curating apps that might be of particular interest and use to, say, photography buffs, Watford fans or, heaven forbid, technology evangelists?
The value of curation in the bricks and mortar world enables a shopkeeper to develop a set of products that their customer base finds of use or interest enough to buy. There is a risk inherent in shopkeeping – buy inventory that no body wants and you lose money – but the upside is that you can make a margin on the successful lines and hopefully that is worth more than the costs of your operation. Manufacturers of product want access to the customer base that the shopkeeper has built up, so in turn see value in their retail channels (or at least those that shift product). Many independent retailers have found themselves one- or two-steps removed from manufacturers as they are pushed to use wholesalers for supply.
I’m sure that there is a value in curation in the virtual apps world – for example, to keep an eye on what’s around in the Android and iOS world, I regularly review Stuart Dredge’s blogs on The Guardian where he reviews the top releases each week. That’s effectively curation, but not shopkeeping because neither Stuart or The Guardian have to take any risk in stockholding, or receive any profit from transactions that result from a purchase from clicking through on the links supplied.
Interestingly, if you do a search for the words “great apps for” and then add in a particular group (photographers, doctors, football fans and so on), you’ll find a stack of links of people already doing this curation to varying degrees. So maybe the next Apps discovery innovation will become something like a virtual shopping mall rather than a virtual supermarket as categories in stores today are more like aisles than they are specialist retailers.
Open up an opportunity for experts in particular fields to be able to lay out a store specific to their arena, but in a consistent location that is known and trusted, and we might find a better form of discoverability than exists today.