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Origins of prosumption
The idea of consumers being the producers – prosumption; or at least being part of the process within a modern industrial context was envisioned back in 1970 with Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock. Toffler was influenced by technological progress as consumers started to be more involved in the delivery of their own services and products.
The first ATM machine appeared at the beginning of the 1960s and started to be rolled out seriously in the late 1960s, this revolutionised access to money which previously relied on counter service to access their money. In terms of presumption, the customer became the bank teller.
The ability to make phone calls without operator intervention was technically possible since the early 1900s but it was a leap forward in electronics that saw a surge in the widespread adoption of automatic telephone switches by the likes of Western Electric, Northern Telecom and Ericsson.
The internet has extended it further, from companies delegating services to us:
- Printing your own bill
- Arranging you own payments to other people
- Answering customer service questions on a brand’s behalf (Get Satisfaction, GiffGaff)
Even the job of product manager and financier has been moved over to the consumer. Businesses like Threadless used consumer votes to decide which t-shirt designs they then manufactured and sold to those who showed interest.
Crowdsourcing platforms built on top of Salesforce are used by major corporates like Dell and Starbucks to filter new product ideas and service improvements. Crowdsourcing has been taken further with the likes of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Demohour which allow the consumer to fund the manufacture of their product upfront. Something that Jolla copied on its own website when it launched it’s first handset.
Even marketing has been outsourced services like Buddy Bounce have the potential for fans to be a largely self-organising marketing organisation. At the moment you can see the way One Direction fans use social media to rally around their band.
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