When my mom was starting her busy protoyuppy family, back in the 60s, one thing was easier. She had relationships with saleswomen at a few downtown department stores. “I could call one up and say, I need some back to school clothes, and she’d just put together a couple of outfits for you guys. And that was it, we’d just go down, take a look at them, buy the best option and I was finished.”
Think of all the time we spend now, comparison shopping, and all the energy and money that goes into convincing consumers that they have some kind of special relationship with a brand.
Imagine if the web could bring about a mass return to the kind of economy where customers had real sustained relationships with sellers. That’s a possibility put forth by Doc Searls in a book I started reading last week. The Intention Economy grew out of an article he wrote for Linux Journal back in 2006. Much has changed since then, but the kernel of his argument seems to be even more possible. What if the current trend of vendors, using technology to track and prompt buyers, shifted instead towards encouraging buyers to simply state their buying intentions up front. What if this brought about a more direct, open and respectful relationship between buyers and sellers. Wouldn’t almost everyone profit?
For instance, imagine you have an app that enables you to list the things you intend to buy in the near future. On this app you put the things you want to buy: a new car, a reconditioned Ipad for the kids, a coffee table that would match the living room you posted on pinterest, a grocery list that you don’t have the time to check with the latest flyers. Let’s say this app has enabled you to form a network of trusted vendors. Over the next days you receive bids, offers, helpful information from various vendors, a calculation of what your groceries would cost at three different stores. Some of these vendors have sold to you before, so they’re willing to cut you a better deal as a trusted, known customer. Let’s add some bonus features, like a terms of service contract overseen by a good consumer protection group. A contract that the VENDOR clicks the agreement button on. And a seriously well insured way for the buyer to pay that doesn’t make her vulnerable to identity theft, or credit card hacking.
Imagine the money saved on advertising and marketing for the smart vendors who adopt this early. In a couple of years small to medium sized businesses could build a steady web of reliable clients in a stable, sustainable economy.
Everything is moving towards mobile technology, but I have yet to come across a market evaluation that doesn’t predict mobile technology is going to be even tougher to monetize than the web.
Unless it’s not. Unless vendors use it as a way to bypass the high cost of adverstising, marketting and branding altogether. Unless buyers (and yes I’m talking to you women, whose brains are fried from the responsibility of making most of the small purchasing decision in your household) start using mobile technology to find new ways to recover the authentic power they once had.
Imagine that. Or better, why don’t we start forming a collective intention to make that happen.