What are prosumers and how can they affect your business

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Volt bank limited has been granted the first restricted authorised deposit-taking institution licence by APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority).

The new restricted licence framework is designed to help new entrants to the banking industry (Business Insider).

When viewing Volt Bank’s website, visitors are asked a very simple question “What are banks currently doing that you want changed?” In what is becoming an increasing trend, this question is just one method of utilising a group of consumers, the ‘Prosumers’.

A prosumer is a person who consumes and produces a product. It is derived from “prosumption”, a dot-com era business term meaning “production by consumers”.

For Volt Bank, with their product still in the development stage, using customer pain points as a direction for development eliminates several steps in the business cycle. Product development, customer research and marketing are all reduced by giving the customers a voice in the development of their product. In this case, the consumer is also the producer, in other words, a prosumer.

The internet’s various review systems (Google Reviews, Yelp, Amazon, etc.) have given rise to the customer having an increasingly important impact in the way businesses conduct themselves and the products they need to create. The prosumer is merely the next step towards the future of customer empowerment.

Examples of Companies that are utilising Prosumers:

  • Consumer Operated – Wikipedia is written by consumers for consumers. There is no need for writers or editors. Wikipedia allows anyone to edit and create content. Linux is also another example for a customer operated endeavour. The open source software can be used, modified and distributed by anyone under the terms of its respective licenses.

  • Facebook, YouTube, Instagram – User-generated content that is spread virally amongst other consumers. Through a complex algorithm based on commenting and sharing content, on these platforms, the consumer has power over what advertising campaigns are engaged with. Customer Forums – Companies can reduce customer service representatives by utilising the power of their brand advocates through customer forums. This allows loyal customers to help other users with questions relating to the product. Big businesses such as Adobe and WordPress are just some of the companies using this method.
  • Ikea – The idea of the prosumer is not limited to digital only services. In Ikea’s scenario, by retrieving your own items from the shelf, using self-checkout and ultimately building the furniture, you are both the consumer and producer.

This is no longer a phrase that is designated only to startups or tech companies either. Even the likes of software giant, Microsoft, have moved towards prosumers to help engage, produce and promote their products. Microsoft does this by allowing its source code to be available for open source. This essentially allows users to write the code that will change and update their products to benefit them – the consumer.

Customers’ desire for transparency, access to improved technology and consumer empowerment has made the prosumer the future of how we engage with our customers. Business reviews has a larger impact than paid advertising ever will. The internet and social media have allowed for a shift from paid to organic advertising and consumers are now in charge of what is seen, engaged with and reacted to.

So, how can you capitalise on prosumers in your business? (Forbes)

  1. Customer Support – You don’t need an extensive consumer base or a futuristic website to handle customer care and support where your customers want it. Follow your business mentions on Twitter or Quora and respond to customer queries. Another option is to create a customer forum, where you actively engage and promote audience involvement. This allows brand advocates, loyal to your company, to feel responsible for some direction with the business by providing answers to other users.
  2. Meet and Identify consumers where they are – Influencer marketing has become a prominent feature for many marketers globally. If you aren’t familiar with influencers, these are people who have an impact in your specific market. If you’re in finance, this may be a financial blogger. If you’re a clothing company, this may be an Instagram model with several thousands of followers. Prosumers want to be engaged. Send these influential people sample products, ask for their opinions on what you can do better and attempt to create brand advocates. A popular example of this is when Wild Turkey announced that Matthew McConaughey would be their new creative director.
  3. Leverage Social Media – Your follower base on social media are (typically) already customers. Ask your followers for ideas about future products, identify their current pain points and promote engagement between them. Prosumers are seeking empowerment and direction over the products/services that they use – give it to them. Feedback can drive and enhance your current products. Qudos Bank sets a great example. They asked and listened to complaints/feedback regarding their previous mobile banking app, allowing them to develop new features and updates based on customer wants and needs.
  4. Listen – You can’t solve answers to questions if you aren’t listening. If you can’t afford to conduct customer research, your sales team, customer support team and marketers tend to have an idea as to how to address issues your current customer base is having. Coordinate with these departments to identify issues with your product, website or service and respond accordingly. Adopting a prosumer approach to your business may seem intimidating, but utilising the consumer can help reduce development, marketing and customer service costs.

You’ve seen it occuring everywhere already, from Smith’s Chips ‘Invent a flavour competition’, to Woolworths introducing self-checkout. The consumers have taken on a new role as a prosumer, to help you, the company, produce some work. By listening to their concerns and allowing them to have an active role in multiple facets of your company, you’re creating an engaged and loyal customer base.

If you’re interested in reading about prosumers further, the Future of Marketing, winning in the prosumer age by Jon Wuebben is an award winning book that is tailored around this topic.