The Evolution of Consumer Empowerment…

February 24, 2007 at 4:54 pm 1 comment

Alright, this is all about how online communities, web 2.0, read/write web are really nothing new!  But wait, haven’t I been blogging about how they are new and different?  Time to un-wrap this just a little. 

Everyday, we all make a lot of decisions…Where to eat?  What movie to watch? What mobile phone to buy?  What cell carrier to use?  What school to send our kids to?  What camera to buy?  What plumber to use?  Which computer to buy?  Where to go on vacation?  How to properly BBQ a steak:)?  How to get the moss out of my lawn?  You get the idea.  The bigger question is, how do we make all these decisions?  Well, generally, we make them the same way we have always made them. 

A Look Back…

We’ve always used and been very heavily influenced by our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and or others in our personal networks.  The problem with “personal” or physical networks is that they are by definition finite.  Most people’s personal networks are regrettably full of people who share common demographics, opinions, preferences and experiences.  This is just the way it is.  So, when it comes to influence, that personal network is powerful, but relatively limited in its breadth and depth of knowledge and experiences. 

When our need for knowledge exceeded our personal networks, what did we do?  Often, that’s where we went to retailers or direct to manufacturers.  The manufacturers bought premium shelf space and invested in training sales staff in retailers to win influence at the point of purchase.   We’d go to multiple suppliers to check the advice we were getting and ultimately we made a selection – but, in the end, the supply chain wielded a lot of influence over our choices. 

In our personal networks, we might have referred to this process as word of mouth.  Marketers tapped into new tactics to influence word and mouth and then the web ultimately gave explosive growth to the formal discipline of  word of mouth marketing.  (note:  today, this is stretched even further through the online evolution of guerilla marketing – gone horribly wrong recently by Turner Broadcasting.)

Present day…

What the web has changed in this equation is the massive proliferation and democratization of information and access to peer expertise.  Across every topic, language, culture, product, service, opinion… Not only are we no longer bound by the limitations of our personal networks, but our access to information and peer insights is nearly limitless.  Consumers will have more knowledge as part of their decision processes than ever before. They will be in the driver’s seat.  They will even be invited into the innovation cycle.  Consumer to consumer conversation as part of the consumption cycle has become an expectation and is driving an obligation for corporate transparency (see future post).  If the consumer goes into a store at all, who will know more, the consumer?  Or the person behind the counter?  I think it’s clear the trend here favors the consumer.

So, if user-to-user conversation is not part of your business model, then you may have a “going out of business,” business model – get on the community bus! (Still working on your community business case…read “convincing.”)

Yes, all these conversations will add a lot more “noise” into the system and we will ebb and flow out of information overload, but innovations (Digg for example) will help manage that noise to the fringes.

So, while there was a time when manufacturers held the influence, then the channel/retailers took over, so now the baton is passed to the consumer, leaving retailers and manufacturers to re-invent themselves to this new user-centric authority. 

My 2 cents anyway:)

And if you liked it…don’t forget to Digg it!



Entry filed under: Community Development Business Case, General Community Discussion.

Politics and Online Community – who’s good? What am I reading right now?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Paul O'Driscoll  |  February 28, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    You are right on with this. I have a 90 year old friend and she is on the web everyday. She checks everthing from the stock market to medical issues. She almost never makes a major purchase decision without checking web sources.


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