We hear a lot these days about how we as consumers are the mercy of big corporations, are being dealt a rough hand by paying over inflated prices or are being mislead by advertising more than ever.
I have to say, what utter hogwash! It appears to me consumers (and we are all consumers in one way shape or form) are more empowered than we have ever been.
What makes me so convinced that we are now in an age of the empowered consumer? Here’s how
We can shop however we want, whenever we want
Australia really has come into its own in mobile and online commerce in the last 12 or so months. We can research the products we want to buy through using our computers and our mobiles and basically pay for the transaction however we see fit.
That means we can avoid the cheesy sales pitch in-store, remove any trace of any kind of human customer service, shop outside store hours, do it in our living room or on the bus on the way to work and get it delivered for the specification, timeframe and price we want.
Retailers are scrambling for you to stay with them and the smart ones are doing as much as they can to ensure you get the shopping experience you want first time every time so they don’t lose your business.
You don’t have to own something to make good use out of it
Welcome to the age of collaborative consumption- where it’s cool to share. You can grab an item you need or wanted to try out as a rental from another person, or turn dust gathering items you own under the bed and the cupboards into cash. And it’s not just stuff.
You can share storage spaces, cars, desks in offices, transit for you and your stuff and even tasks around the home or office.
Recycling is cool (again)
Call it vintage, up-cycling, re-use, recycling, revamping or retro-fying, whatever the heck you want to refer to it as, it’s cool to give a new lease of life on something old and make it new again. This one kind of amuses me as my friends and I have been doing it for years through shopping at 2nd hand stores, working with found art, junk jamming or restoring beloved old furniture pieces because we liked it (and we were skint) and now it’s in lifestyle TV and magazine spreads as the bees knees.
We’re getting so aware of rampant consumerism that old doors are getting a lick of paint and some legs and become tables, or like me end up buying a heck of a lot of stuff from Reverse Garbage for the likes of my creative work.
The shackles of “buy, buy, buy” have been broken. We’re onto what goes on. And that knowledge with it has helped create the empowered consumer.
We know so much about what we buy
You can Google your freaking head off and find what you want, when you want it, on your own terms and made in whatever country you wish. The lo-fi version, the hi-version, the ethical, the green, the made within 100 miles, non using animal products or slave labour- you can find all this information out without having to rely on a company’s marketing spin.
False claims, hidden information and dirty laundry can’t hide.
You can find out if 300 leaps down the chain of your superannuation company if the money funds terrorists or mining companies, you can find out of something is genetically modified, includes nano-particles, and is able to be used by one legged Dolphins called Peter.
Oh OK, so maybe not THAT much info. But you have to admit it is pretty amazing to make such informed decisions about the things we buy.
There are sites for reviewing businesses of all kinds, each App on the App Store and Android Market has a minimum of star ratings and usually accompanying reviews, and we can write, rant and pontificate as much as we want on blogs, directly on a products site or in countless online versions of traditional media such as magazines and newspapers.
You can use Facebook or Twitter to delve into companies before you sign up for services through asking friends and followers what they think of your current purchase options, to share their experiences and so on.
Businesses and products are at the mercy of customer feedback because we have the ability as consumers to share what we think in real time. And this is incredibly powerful stuff!
Yes folks, we’re in the age of the empowered consumer
With payment methods to suit busy lifestyles and across multiple devices, recycling and sharing being the new cool, and a whole wealth of information available to consumers through direct release or peer to peer review, customers are more empowered than we have ever been.