Magazine article Information Today

Me, Consumer - You, Vendor

Magazine article Information Today

Me, Consumer - You, Vendor

Article excerpt

As we people of Planet Earth begin to drive our "Back to the Future" converted DeLoreans faster and faster down the Information Superhighway, we should heed well the dire warnings of major science fiction writers. "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou wilt returneth." Well, that may not be the actual words Jules Verne or Gene Roddenberry used, but you get the drift.

Humans are, after all, a primitive species, sort of like Tarzan, the ultimate "hairless ape." Before we begin fantasizing that the glitzy, multimedia, V.FAST, global village is the natural home of the higher beings we have become, let us recollect the primordial slime from which we came and to which we still belong. Before we were online, we are consumers and, no matter how far we go online, consumers we remain.

Consumers are innate primitives. They live by instinct, operate at visceral levels, survive on suspicion. They get hunches, smell rats, and startle easily. A primitive set of rules decides their actions and reactions. All vendors are enemies. Anyone who wants to sell you something, will try to cheat you. Any vendor staff you trust have evil bosses who will fire them if they don't meet quotas. Products rarely perform as promised. Promised products won't arrive, at least on schedule. Prices will always rise and corners will always be cut when it comes to quality. No news is bad news when it comes to features and costs. If a vendor won't discuss an aspect of a product, it's because discussion would discourage a sale.

As electronic information begins to penetrate mass markets, vendors would do well to learn how to avoid spooking consumers. It should not be that hard to identify dangers. We are all consumers after all. Just put yourself in the other guy's shoes. Don't forget the ignorance factor in your projections. The more education a consumer group possesses on the vendor's operations and business strategies, the more sophisiticated their judgments become. Reassuring professional searchers about the value in a product or service should be easier since the searcher market considers itself more aware of various profit factors. To envision the reactions of a less educated consumer group, imagine your own reactions to a vendor selling you some product or service you know little or nothing about. Identify the elements in marketing a product that could arouse primitive consumer suspicions, particularly among new target markets. Hunger turns an animal into a risk-taker.

However, potential new customers have lived without your product till now and have no reason not to think they could live without it in the future. With primitive life forms, suspicion and inertia go hand in hand.

BZZZ!

Internal buzzers signal when vendors stray over theline marking a consumer's "willing suspension of disbelief." Buzzers come with different volume options. Above all else, vendors want to avoid the loudest BZZZ!--the one followed shortly by a computerized voice shouting "Grab your wallet and run! NOW, NOW!" By the way, this is known among consumers as the "Submarine" volume because it so closely parallels World War II movies where underwater naval executives order immediate descents to ocena floors ("DIVE! DIVE!"). However, online information vendors should identify and avoid lower volume buzzes as well. "BZZZ!" or "b-z-z-z" can botch marketing techniques that set off my buzzer. None of these examples represent an indictment of any firm or any market activity. Reasons for a marketing action can be totally innocent and still set off consumer suspicions. In most cases, consumers simply do not know why a vendor behaves in a certain way. Lack of knowledge, however, does not deter suspicion. Once suspicion raises its ugley head, acquiring knowledge from the party most likely to know the facts--namely the vendor--automtically shuts down. Is it right to convict without evidence? Certainly not. …

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