Defining P-Commerce and P-Marketing


It started innocently enough. Last week a colleague (Adam Sulkowski) asked me about recent developments in p-commerce, a term that he heard during his MBA/JD studies at Boston College in 2000. P-commerce? Turns out that the idea of p-commerce has been around since before 2000 and waiting for technology to catch up. A May 2000 blog posted on The Register entitled “Forget ‘e’ and ‘m’ commerce, p-commerce is the future” is one of the first public mentions of the notion of p-commerce. They define p-commerce as position-based commerce. A 2001 conference paper by Vagan Terziyan documents the history of the use of the term p-commerce and presents his suggested architecture for “public-commerce”. Earlier variations of the use of p-commerce, according to Terziyan, were postal-commerce, position-commerce, pervasive-commerce, people-commerce, person-to-person commerce and personalized-commerce.


Although Terziyan’s article is ground-breaking from a systems architecture standpoint and The Register article is one of the first to announce the existence of p-commerce, a satisfactory business definition of p-commerce does not yet exist. In my opinion, the brief definition provided by The Register provides a solid foundation on which to build. Recent developments in location-based services make the timing right to offer this definition of p-commerce:

p-commerce, or place-commerce, is a specialized form of mobile commerce that uses mobile internet access and gps information to assist and enhance the retail shopping experience of customers based on their location and individual shopping behavior”

The relationship of p-commerce to both e-commerce and m-commerce is simple: just as m-commerce is a subset of e-commerce, p-commerce is a subset of m-commerce. The main difference between m-commerce and p-commerce is the concept of position. M-commerce exists without concern for position, while p-commerce relies on and is based on position (place).


Although the concept of p-marketing exists (location-based marketing), no documented use of the term p-marketing or definition of p-marketing could be identified. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist – only that it can’t easily be found. Let’s replace the term location-based marketing with p-marketing (place-marketing). The suggested definition for p-marketing is:

p-marketing, or place-marketing, is a specialized form of mobile marketing that uses mobile internet access and gps information to provide customized promotion campaigns to individuals based on their location and shopping behavior”

Like its bigger sibling p-commerce, p-marketing is a subset of m-marketing and e-marketing. Similarly, the characteristic distinguishing p-marketing from m-marketing is place. P-marketing offers businesses the opportunity to provide promotional incentives to customers based on proximity or as they shop, and these incentives can be customized based upon the customer’s shopping behavior and history.

Some might think the differences between e/m/p-commerce and e/m/p-marketing to be merely semantic. To those who feel this way, please consider this distinction: p-commerce represents the “store” and p-marketing represents the “sales associate”: some customers purchase from your store without needing the assistance or incentives provided by your sales associates, but empowering your sales associates to tailor their promotional efforts to individuals based on their proximity/location/place and personal buying habits may lead to increased sales and customer satisfaction.

With the launching of Facebook’s Places, the growth of Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla, the location-based capabilities of Google and the rapid diffusion and adoption of smartphones, it is clear that both p-commerce and p-marketing are the future of the retail and entertainment industries. The old mantra of retail (and real estate) is more pertinent today than ever before: location, location, location. Thank you Adam.


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