It’s been three years since Dell Swarm launched in Singapore. We think Dell’s foray into social commerce has huge potential. But are there plans to launch the group buying concept in the US? Is the company planning to add more robust product information? I recently caught up with Damien Cummings, Dell’s online director for Asia, to answer these questions and more.
But first, a little background about the concept. As this promotional video shows, Dell Swarm makes it easy for consumers to engage in group buying on products such as laptops, printers, and digital cameras. Once enough people have signed up for a specific product, a swarm begins. With only a limited supply available, many swarms sell out in a few minutes. Dell Swarm gets consumers a great price and allows Dell and partner companies to get rid of inventory that hasn’t sold through other means.
While we think Dell Swarm is a fantastic example of social commerce, as my colleague Elizabeth recently reported, a lack of product information could stymie the concept with US consumers. So far, Dell has only made the service available in Singapore, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Ireland.
“Social Commerce Vital to Dell’s Future”
Content Ping: How did the Dell Swarm idea come into being?
Damien Cummings: Originally conceived as an Intel and Dell joint marketing effort, Dell Swarm was launched in Singapore in May 2009. As a marketing tool, it generated a lot of buzz but it wasn’t the commercial success Dell was looking for. It evolved again and was re-released in Canada and more recently Australia, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Each time, the Dell Swarm platform has evolved and improved.
Content Ping: How does it fit in to Dell’s overall e-commerce strategy?
Damien Cummings: What is remarkable about Dell Swarm is that it is the world’s first corporate group buying / deal of the day / social commerce platform developed by a fortune 500 company. It’s an incredibly bold move by Dell. However, when you consider Dell’s amazing heritage in e-commerce it doesn’t seem as surprising. Dell has a long history of e-commerce, being the first company to reach US$1 million a day in online revenue, the first to sell complex configurable items online, one of the first sites to have e-support and online discussion forums (all the way back in 1995!) and was one of the pioneers of online retailing.
Social commerce is the next wave of e-commerce and is a vital step in evolving the way Dell does business.
Social commerce is the next wave of e-commerce and is a vital step in evolving the way Dell does business. It’s not expected that Dell Swarm will ever be more than a niche activity (at least not when compared to the multi-billion annual revenue generated from Dell.com), but it’s been a great way of promoting less well known products and end-of-life products to value conscious customers.
Content Ping: How do you see it evolving over the next year?
Damien Cummings: I see Dell Swarm being integrated back into the Dell.com online experience. Ideally, we’ll be able to offer a full premium (and customizable) buying experience via Dell.com but also present Dell Swarm-like “deal of the day” offers in specific countries at peak times to compliment the business as usual e-commerce merchandising activities.
There are two other areas that Dell Swarm can evolve into: Geographic expansion – making it available across all countries worldwide; and Expanded product coverage – focusing on more niche or less well known product categories like software, computer peripherals, games, phones, tablets, TVs, and consumer electronics.
Content Ping: Any plans to bring the service to the United States?
Damien Cummings: There’s no launch date for the US yet. We’re still looking at the business case.
Content Ping: Are there any plans to add more robust product information to the site?
Damien Cummings: The current plan is to use Dell Swarm to pique customer’s interest and offer a great “deal of the day.” However, if the customer wants more information on a product we’ll encourage them to visit Dell.com.
Content Ping: Our view is that the lack of product information would hold this service back in the US market, as there are so many other group buying sites that put product information front and center. Do you agree? Or is this a case where low price trumps product descriptions?
My belief is that if information can be presented in the right way…there shouldn’t be any concern with a service like Dell Swarm taking off in the US market.
Damien Cummings: I don’t see the issue as price vs. product description.
I see the big challenge that group buying sites face is lack of trust. Often very small businesses are promoting unknown products through new services like Groupon or LivingSocial. Dell doesn’t suffer the same skepticism that Groupon or similar group buying sites suffer, nor does it have an issue with customers being unaware of its core product offering. Dell has that trust, which has been built up over 26 years of business and 17 years of solid e-commerce experience.
My belief is that if information can be presented in the right way, with clear links back to robust product information on Dell.com (or another Dell managed digital property), there shouldn’t be any concern with a service like Dell Swarm taking off in the US market.
Damien Cummings serves as the online director for Dell in Asia Pacific and Japan, managing $1 billion in e-commerce revenue in Asia. Damien has over 15 years experience in the digital industry, covering all aspects of digital marketing, e-commerce, and social media. Previously, Damien served as Dell’s Global Social Media Director, with a mandate to “operationalize” social media sales and marketing into Dell’s top 10 countries internationally.
In his spare time Damien writes a popular blog called Digital Future that looks at issues such as social media, e-commerce, and online strategy.