All posts tagged prosumer

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Prosumer – fear the new breed of user

There’s a guy in a bedroom in London tweeting to his followers about a crap experience with a new digital service. They’re listening too. Lapping it up because they think it’s giving them some inside track. Some of them will even pass the disgust on to their followers. They might just re-tweet creating a virtual cycle of pass-it-on with limitless viral potential. Some might even just plagiarize the advice and pretend it happened to them instead – an interesting case of wanting to be the top informant. It’s binary Chinese whispers, but in this case the message doesn’t change just the magnitude of it. Meanwhile the digital service is shitting bricks of binary trying to put the untameable fire out – “it’s out of control, what can we do?” – the answer is of course nothing at all. If you tackle the guy at the source you risk in framing his rage by second guessing the motive and getting it wrong again. Besides, he’s getting his moment in the limelight as the hero who exposed the scandal (him & the 32 other people who nicked the warning and claimed the victory) so why would he be interested in a bung to shut him up. We have an unwritten rule in our land of digital architects & experience manufacturing, you can only do one thing – “don’t feed the troll”. Act ignorant, pretend it’s not there & eventually it should go away.

It’s not a new phenomenon, I’ve been parroting on to colleagues & peers about this for almost 10 years under various labels. In fact the whole concept is rather old hat – you have a crap experience & human nature tells us to warn our friends to stop the same thing happening to them.

On the flip side if you have a great time you’ll be an advocate & pass the good times on. So we have to embrace the new world order as much as fear it because the positive effect can be too huge to risk missing out on.

We’ve come to label the uncontrollable desire to tell everyone everything “The Prosumer Effect“.

Prosumer is a portmanteau formed by combing either the word professional or producer with the word consumer. The term has taken on multiple conflicting meanings: the business sector sees the prosumer (professional–consumer) as a market segment, whereas economists see the prosumer (producer–consumer) as having greater independence from the mainstream economy.

Influencing a company with the power of communication

My view of the Prosumer is as one who can influence what a company does be it product development or marketing in ways which directly benefit them. For example, say you’re an advertising agency and a group of people who were subjected to a particular campaign took issue with it & used social communication tools to voice their concern. These customers are important enough that losing them would seriously hurt your bottom line. Based on their request you direct a portion of your next campaign budget to solve their specific issue. While the customers didn’t directly make the changes they did influence the company with their feedback. This arrangement has positive effects for both parties:

For the customer:

  • Immediate access to a more tailored counter-campaign
  • The new campaign meets their specific requirements.

For the company:

  • Strengthened relationship with the customer.
  • Demonstrates a willingness to keep their customers satisfied.
  • The company now has a new feature/product/service they can market to other customers.

It’s a win-win scenario.

Another definition of Prosumer is “Progressive Consumer” which emerged during the recession in 2008 / 2009 and identifies a modern consumer who has changed their approach to the traditional methods and habits of purchasing products. A Prosumer is researching a products value, performance, and price through social networks (twitter, tumblr, facebook) and consumer product reviews (such as and prices comparison shopping engines such as Kelkoo before making a final decision or purchase. Within these web sites a Prosumer researches all aspects of a products performance, price and social acceptance in relative comparison to similar products within the same category.

It’s no coincidence that Aleksandr Orlov of Compare the Meerkat was an advertising hit in 2009, he was the poster boy (well, animal) for the prosumer crowd, all scrabbling over the best deals to help dented pockets.

The Prosumer is searching for the highest quality product that best meets their personal needs for the maximum amount of money they are willing to spend. Based on that search criteria, the Prosumer is also willing to venture into new shopping distribution channels in order to purchase that product.

I simply adore this video entitled Prometeus: the future of media. It really crystallizes some of the new order in stunning over-exaggerated style:

Prometheus – The media new age

“Man is God. He is everywhere, he is anybody, he knows everything.”
“A new figure emerges: the prosumer, a producer and a consumer of information. Anyone can be a prosumer.”
“Experience is the new reality.”

It’s melodrama of course, but those 3 statements from the video alone carry weight & reality. We are everywhere now, we do communicate globally in real time & we are hyper-connected. I’m writing this post in bed using a app on my iPad. I might go & shop & review when I’m done. If something irritates me I can open Tweetdeck and let my 200ish followers know it sucked. Hell, if it REALLY sucked I might send the same status update to my Facebook profile & let my 170 ‘real friends’ know so they can tell their friends & so on. We call it a ‘status bomb’ in this game. I’m a prosumer. I’m also an influencer. I carry weight in my own vapor sphere & that means I can’t be ignored. Scary, huh?

The rise of the Twinsumer

The proliferation of the use of digital marketing has led to significant growth in brands using social marketing campaigns to increase consumer engagement. Social channels facilitate the art of listening, learning and sharing, so consumers are now using online channels to find the exact product to match their tastes based on fellow consumers’ recommendations.

Moreover, they are not just listening to any old recommendation they find online but are listening to their taste ‘twins’. These are consumers who share the same opinions, whose purchase procedure, engagement and characteristics are very similar. Ultimately, by mimicking other users’ behaviour and purchase patterns these people are becoming ‘twinsumers’.

Before the digital marketing age, marketers were reliant on influencers who would spread their customer experience by word of mouth, to their ‘real-world’ friends, to encourage other shoppers to visit their stores. Although customer loyalty schemes did help to track the customer journey, they still did not allow marketers to see the full consumer journey and to track shoppers at every touchpoint. Without this information marketers would struggle to see exactly who their customer was and at what point they were being turned off by the brand. The explosion of e-commerce brought many opportunities for marketers to track customer insight and recommendations online but all too often it came without in-depth analysis of what was making the customer engage with the product in the first place.

So why should marketers be interested in these twinsumers? Firstly, as the online environment is now a hotbed for social interaction, buzz around a brand can have longevity as audiences continue to engage in dialogue about it. It really cannot be underestimated how much consumers are relying on peer opinion over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions; most importantly, consumers are increasingly looking at opinions that have been posted online to inform their choices. The twinsumer phenomenon turns millions of reviews, ratings and recommendations into truly valuable results that can exactly match one person’s particular preferences to another.

This is crucial for businesses as the nature of these well-linked and related recommendations often leads to impulse and surprise buys, as well as generating more sales. Statistics also show that click-through and conversion rates of recommendations based on collaborative filtering are much higher than untargeted content such as banner advertisements or top-seller lists. Consumers respect the opinion of others, and twinsumers respect the opinions of those who share their characteristics. You can’t impress them with traditional marketing and advertising alone any more.

Marketers need to consider if their brand can exploit this new wave of twinsumerism and adapt their websites accordingly. Do they already provide a review, opinion or recommendation area on the site? If so, then consider adding the functionality for personal profiles to allow real twinsumerism to blossom. This should include everything from your customer’s age, appearance, occupation, favourite websites, hobbies, interests and musical taste to entire biographies. In fact, anything that allows other consumers to grasp a better feel for how compatible they are with the brand.

While many twinsumers bond over a niche market such as travel, books or reading, marketers must not ignore the impact of the ‘Master Consumer’: a leading twinsumer and a mass influencer. These are certain reviewers, bloggers or consumer experts who have become so popular that they appeal to large numbers of other consumers who will trust and follow their recommendations even if their profiles do not match the usual narrowly defined twinsumer matches. By identifying which of these master consumers are relevant to a brand, marketers can look to initiate twinsumerism by specifically targeting these influencers.

Twinsumers are an important part of the process of how we make purchasing decisions online. The digital generation emerging is the first group of consumers to grow up with all these new tools and peer-to-peer options through which they are ready to contribute. There are already millions of personal profile, blogs and homepages up and running exchanging this information. With online sales continuing to increase, marketers need to leverage every opportunity to ensure they can achieve the most cut-through. While twinsumers are an emerging phenomenon, as a purchasing group they are perpetually growing and it is imperative for any marketer to consider these consumers within existing and future digital strategies.

Published by Figaro Digital – 01/10/2009

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