John O' Gorman

How Long Before Consumers Start Buying Like Corporations?

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If predictions are right then it won’t be long before consumers start buying like corporations and B2C marketers get a fright.


The Intention Economy

The further advance of new technologies such as social media are likely to result in a B2C markets going the way of B2B markets with a dramatic shift in power from seller to buyer.

A New Era Of Consumer Buying

As consumers we have been buying books on Amazon and just about everything else on eBay for almost a decade. We have been using social media, Facebook and mobile apps for just about half that time. So, what is next?

Well, if the predictions are true this technology is about to usher in a new era of interaction between consumers and suppliers.

An End To The Mass Marketing Era?

For many decades there has been talk of an end to the era of mass marketing. However, until now it was just talk. That is because although targeting the ‘customer of one’ sounded good, the technology did not exist to make it possible.

A new book by Doc Searls called ‘The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge‘ envisions how new technology will kill the age of mass marketing. It means an end to the ‘Calf – Cow model’ where the consumer is powerless and the supplier is all-powerful.

No longer will consumers be simply”targeted” “captured”,” “locked-in,” “owned” and “managed” by sellers!

Technology Gives Consumers More Power

This is the information or  ‘Big Data’ age. As consumers we leave a rich digital trail through our use of; loyalty cards, online retailers, web bowers and online search engines, as well as our social networking pages.

For sellers this information is power. But that may not always be the case.

Instead of sellers using this data to sell more effectively to consumers, how can consumers use it to buy more effectively from sellers? Well, the answer is an emerging technology called VRM.

‘VRM, or vendor relationship management is a category of business activity made possible by software tools that provide customers with both independence from vendors and better means for engaging with vendors.’ That is the definition from Project VRM at Harvard.

To quote Doc Searls: ‘For most of the industrial age, companies have been obsessed with getting the attention of prospects and customers…’ But now ‘we can make our intentions known personally and in ways that can cause and sustain genuine relationships. And, where no relationship is required, we can connect, do business, and move on, with less cost and hassle than ever.’

The Personal Request For Proposal

So, the competitive tender may soon find its way into B2C marketing.  It could take the form of a Personal Request for Proposal, where individual customers grant permission to vendors to access their digital persona  and to pitch bids for products, or services that they are interested in buying. For example:

  • I am looking for a mountain bike, in Hull, with 500 pounds to spend – p.s. as my facebook wall shows I am into extreme biking and am rather tall!
  • I am looking for a child’s stroller in the Lewisham area and have 150 to spend – p.s. I am a member of the fair trade alliance, so ethical products appeal to me.

In the Attention Economy of mass marketing vendors focused on getting the buyer’s attention and marketing, or advertising was all powerful.   But in The Intention Economy the consumer buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. It is a shift in the balance of power and that is something that B2B sellers know all about.

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