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Swipely aims to to “turn purchases into conversations”

Today I got my beta invitation to try out Swipely, a social shopping site wherein your credit/debit card transactions are shared with others in order to “turn purchases into conversations.” You can see what your friends have purchased, your friends can see your purchases (that you’ve approved for sharing ahead of time). Then you make comments like “Love their burgers!” or “Don’t even bother with the sales staff here” on your shared transactions.

At first, I hesitated to sign up. Not really for privacy concerns, but because I think I’d be depressed at the drum-beat frequency with which I shop to the same places. Mooyah’s. Central Market. Freebird’s. Mooyah’s. Central Market. Freebirds. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Maybe an occasional cymbal splash of Ben & Jerry’s. Still the likelihood that I would be an insipid user wasn’t enough to deter me from trying out Swipely. So I went ahead and signed in.

Naturally my first thought was “How do I limit which swipes get posted?” The privacy options didn’t appear until I clicked “Add an account to Swipely.” The options presented were:



I thought “Maybe I’ll just approve automatically in certain categories”, which led to:

 


I started to remove nearly all the checkboxes, leaving only Shopping, Eating Out, and Activities. I would have liked to have checked more categories off, but frankly, I’m not sure what constitutes “Home” or “Technology”. Hey Swipely, maybe you should have little pop-ups showing us enticing examples of what gets categorized as a “Home” purchase. Probably Crate and Barrel? What’s would an iTunes purchase be categorized as? Media or Technology? Come on, Swipely, lure me in! This is your perfect time at which you can point out examples of all the really friggin’ cool stuff I buy (however rarely) that I would have loved to shown off to the world.   Instead, all I can think of is the lame stuff I buy, like velcro cable-separating strips. I could see myself eventually making cute and quirky purchases just for the status. I’m immensely proud of my uber-dorky purchase of super-strong magnets.  But nobody ever gets to hear about them unless they happen to be in my kitchen, playing with them on my fridge. Swipely could be turning EVERYTHING you buy into a status symbol. Only my friends get to see my DVD collection, but I want everyone to know that I do in fact own the movie Serenity on DVD and Blu-Ray.
 
This could be my first Swipely purchase.  Might as well make a splash.
 
Dang. I’ve digressed. But Swipely, I hope you heard me. Swipely’s marketing strategy until now (that they claim, at least) is that they want to create talking points and conversation around the things people purchase. What about a community of voters, where the most unusual purchase of the day gets voted up, Digg-style, to the top for display on the home page? What about badges? Make an “Insomniac Online Shopper” badge for those who shop on Amazon at 2 a.m. How about a “No Impulse Control” badge for those who can’t pass a credit-card-capable vending machine without buying an Aquafina? I’m quite fond of the badges; Foursquare has some hilarious ones. And to avoid a bad pun, Swipely should totally steal the badge idea and adapt it to their own website.

Back to account setup: I chickened out and opted for the “Only after I approve them one-by-one.” Next up: Find Bank, then Enroll Credentials.  This is where you enter your credit card institution’s username and password.

I got nervous here. A search of Swipely revealed an article wherein it’s reported that Swipely’s primary competitor, Blippy, inadvertently exposed the credit card numbers of a small group of its beta testers.

Still, I consider myself a journalist of sorts, so I took a chance and entered my credentials. Resulting in a page where Swipely brags about the various third party organizations who’ve verified Swipely’s security and privacy policies and procedures. Swipely’s security FAQ also says that if someone gets into your Swipely account, they can’t do any transactional damage because “Swipely provides a strictly “read only” view of your transaction information. Your online banking user names and passwords are never displayed after you enter them during your first session, not even to you.”  Good to know.

I anticipate Swipely is another platform where I’m going to have to remember to login regularly into Swipely to approve and share my transactions. I have a hard enough time remembering to check-in on Foursquare on my phone, but Swipely has an advantage here.  Plus Swipely already has plans for a mobile app in the future. When Swipely develops a smartphone app (an app for iPhone, Android, etc), it would probably continuously monitor when you make a transaction, so that all Swipely has to do is send you an alert on your phone (via the Swipely app or a text message). Then you can respond with “Approve” or “Don’t Approve”. Which means Swipely can actually compete with FourSquare for location-based check-ins. Sure, there are plenty of venues on Foursquare where you aren’t buying anything (Hello, UNT’s Bernard Street bus stop), but if you’re at a coffee shop, bookstore, bar, or other social venue, wouldn’t you want your friends to know it, especially if they’re in the same place or nearby? Foursquare is at a disadvantage here; it can’t really do this sort of auto-checking of where you are because it would require constantly running your phone’s GPS, which is a battery-suck.

On top of this messaging capability, Swipely could eventually offer more granular control over which transactions it will message you, using the categories feature. You could set it so that you don’t get messaged about transactions categorized as “Bills”, but you do get alerted when you make a “Eating Out” purchase. (Just to be clear, the Swipely app doesn’t exist yet. But I hope they develop it soon.)

I also have another tangent regarding a situation where your credit card gets stolen and you aren’t aware of it. But naturally you get alerted via your phone via a Swipely app. Banks already monitor for unusual spending, but I don’t know how good they are at it, and I think I could set up better alerts than they could.

Now that I’m set up on Swipely, I’ll be interested to see how it goes. I’d like to start finding the people I’m connected to on Twitter, but their Twitter Friend Finder isn’t working at the time of this posting.

More postings later as I get a feel for Swipely.

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