Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Art of Innovative Consumption - Part 1

When competition is lacking and prices rise, are there still choices
When competition is lacking and prices rise, are there still choices? Often there are not, certainly not obvious and appealing ones. However, with some creativity and resourcefulness, we as consumers have the ability to move about the market place and fins alternatives in ways business doesn’t factor into its modelling because they are not statistically significant. Doing this can save us a great deal and can enrich our lives in surprising ways. This article will introduce some alternative approaches to being a consumer and discuss some of their merits.

            Being an innovative consumer is a good way to save money. However, other benefits include reducing waste and choosing to support companies and businesses that are good employers and choose environmentally sustainable business models.

            A good first step for many in terms of becoming an innovative consumer is to shop around. Simply calling a few businesses out of the Yellow Pages for quotes is better than nothing, but often the quotes are altogether too similar and the results can be disappointing. Therefore, assuming that one has made a decision to obtain a particular product, one needs to think creatively about alternative ways to obtain it. This means looking beyond the brands and retailers that market directly to one’s own location and demographic and searching further afield.

Though prices are said to be set through supply and demand in the market place, this is slightly misleading because it suggests that there is one marketplace. There are in fact many, and the same product may be competing in several. For example, buying a desk top computer from a major retailer can be a costly business, with retail mark ups in excess of fifty percent and manufacturers using the most basic possible parts in order to keep their profit margins as high as possible. If we compare their prices with some smaller computer shops they may appear reasonable, since many small computer shops aim to compete for the same market segment by keeping prices only slightly lower and offering a similar quality product. It is only when we actively go in search of businesses appealing to a different target market that we are able to see any real difference. For example, if we look for businesses that aim to sell computers to the IT savvy, we see that we are able to obtain a similar system for less than half the price. We may need to wait in line for it and have someone talk to us in high speed jargon with a strong accent, but if we knew what we were after in the first place and did our homework, there it would be. What is more, we would have many options and be able to buy something tailored to our individual needs.
A crucial aspect of innovative consumption that makes the above scenario possible is our ability to do research and know what products will suit us before we approach whomever is selling them. Reading the tech blurbs on the Harvey Norman website it is sometimes difficult to imagine that the products and technologies they offer have anything to do with the jargon and model codes that are used to represent products in the catalogues of IT catalogues. Their language is modified to suit their communication team’s target audience, of whom you may unwittingly find yourself a member if your knowledge of language is restricted to commonly known terminology. To be a truly innovative consumer, you have to learn specialised vocabulary. Learning one or more second language also helps as will be elaborated in part two. Stay tuned.

To be continued…

In the mean time, here is some further reading on the subject. Proceeds appreciated by this blogger. 

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