The shift from organization power to customer power continues, as customers use the Web to organize themselves like never before.The Web gives organizational tools to the customer. The ability to organize 100 or 10,000 people used to be the exclusive domain of nations or well-funded private companies. Not anymore.
"The power of groups, the clout that crowds can exercise to get what they want, is nothing new," states trendwatching.com's latest report, Crowd Clout. "What is new, however, is the dizzying ease with which likeminded, action-ready citizens and consumers can now go online and connect, group and ultimately exert influence on a global scale."
In the report, CrowdSpirit, a fascinating example of customer power, is explained to us. Although still in development, it reflects key trends in the Web economy. CrowdSpirit allows customers to come together, not simply to buy products, but also to decide what sort of new products they'd like to see developed. Here's how it works:
# The community sends ideas, fine tunes them and votes for the best one.
# The best ideas and their product specifications are jointly defined with CrowdSpirit's research and manufacturing partners. Community investors start financing the product development.
# The first prototype is tested and fine-tuned by the community.
# Customers purchase products, thanks to the CrowdSpirit supply chain. The community takes care of product support and recommends products to retailers.
Other interesting examples of crowd clout include:
* Cruisecompete.com where you can get travel agents to quote on the cruise you want.
* Igglo.fi where potential buyers can 'pre-order' houses that aren't on the market, allowing potential sellers to find out how desirable their property is.
* Eventful.com which allows music fans in a certain city, for example, to request that their favorite group come and play there.
* Dutch United Consumers negotiates mass discounts on insurance, petrol and electricity on behalf of its 250,000 members.
* Chinese sites such as Taobao.com and Liba.com that facilitate customers to come together and get group discounts on a variety of products.
* SellaBand.com where fans can invest in their favorite bands in order to allow them to make new recordings.
According to Doc Searls, all this customer power is part of the Intention Economy, which "is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don't have to fly from silo to silo, like bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer's purchase. Simple as that.
"In The Intention Economy, a car rental customer should be able to say to the car rental market, 'I'll be skiing in Park City from March 20-25. I want to rent a 4-wheel drive SUV. I belong to Avis Wizard, Budget FastBreak and Hertz 1 Club. I don't want to pay up front for gas or get any insurance. What can any of you companies do for me?' -- and have the sellers compete for the buyer's business."
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.