The pandemic has accelerated the formation of a new segment of consumers – “prosumers“. Who are they and how are they transforming the tech industry?
New digital business reality
In the past, innovations were created by only a few of the largest corporations, and often their goal was not so much to improve the user experience, as the scientific breakthrough to speed up and simplify production, or to race with competitors in the image. As a rule, these were developments that were easily adapted to the mass market and did not consider the individual needs of users.
The situation with the pandemic changed everything dramatically. Within six months, companies had to accelerate the implementation of such profound changes in operational and business processes that would normally take years of work. The new reality contributed to the accelerated adoption of digital solutions, which dramatically increased the pace of development of the technology industry. Against the background of this transformation of the industry, a new segment of consumers has emerged – so-called “prosumers”. The term belongs to the American futurist Alvin Toffler, author of The Third Wave.
It is believed that the definition is formed from the words “producer” (producer) and “consumer” (consumer). But there is another interpretation – the combination of the words “consumer” (consumer) and “professional user” (professional user). Both versions imply the active participation of consumers in the process of creating the goods and services they need. The phenomenon itself, blurring the boundaries between buyers and manufacturers, is called “prosumerism”.
20th century prosumers VS prosumers of a new era
The emergence of the trend took place more than 20 years ago in the automotive industry in Europe, when businessmen, instead of prestigious brands; began to give preference to practical models that could also serve them as a personal car. Faced with this shift in consumer behaviour, automakers have begun to work on combining premium performance and functionality in new models.
Today, we are seeing a similar shift in technology due to the pandemic – users in a hybrid work environment need technologies that are not only equally suited to personal and work tasks, but also provide the security and functionality inherent in enterprise development.
However, even before the pandemic, the traditional product creation model was rapidly losing its relevance. Over the years of mass industrial production, a vacuum has formed between companies and consumers, which has led to a loss of loyalty, and, therefore, to a decrease in profits. The crisis only clearly showed companies that now, to find themselves in a more advantageous position among competitors; it is necessary not only to listen to the voice of a real consumer but to respond to it quickly and accurately, regularly improving their products and paying great attention to the possibilities of their personalization for each consumer.
“Remote” as a chance to get closer to the consumer
During the first wave of the pandemic, company leaders faced two challenges at once: optimizing the process of employees’ transition to remote work on the one hand, and comprehensive cost reduction on the other. As hybrid environments replace traditional workspaces and classrooms, the technology landscape is changing faster. For manufacturers, this is a good chance to realize technological potential in two segments at once – both consumer and commercial – and for prosumers – the opportunity to actively participate in the development of new solutions and devices.
For example, let’s take a parent choosing the first computer for their child. Distance learning has become a norm, and with the start of the university year, a new target audience has emerged with common requests that no one has thought about before. Battery capacity, processor speed, high-resolution webcams for video conferencing – these functions are now the main parameters for choosing a computer.
And today, such consumers should be seen not only as a growing market, but also as co-creators of solutions for the computers of the future. With their help, developers will be able to answer the question: “What do users need in everyday life? What problems do they face every day? ” Products created based on this approach will be closely tied to user needs, covering a wide range of all kinds of preferences.
At the same time, it is important to understand that prosumer ideas will only become relevant to produce products when they are complemented by the results of analytical processing of user experience data. Analytics will allow you to combine professional and user needs into one overall concept of a personalized offering, the implementation of which was not available to developers in the past.
The next generation of digital learners
Another opportunity to improve the future is to involve the growing class of prosumers in the creation of new educational solutions. It can be assumed that many representatives of the older generation, who have recently been observing distance learning for their children, will soon decide to use the possibilities of virtual classes and remote training for themselves. In turn, the next generation of adult digital learners will have a tremendous impact on the creation of educational technologies. For example, VR solutions that are actively developing and integrating not only in the entertainment industry, but also in the education sector.
Virtual reality technologies already open almost limitless opportunities for collaborative learning and creativity, even if the participants are in different countries. The software of digital platforms allows you to create and design virtual conference rooms, conduct events while maintaining the involvement of employees, partners, and customers. The ability to be an active participant in what is happening, express real emotions and use gestures, conduct a lively dialogue, and interact with surrounding objects – all this provides a completely new qualitative level of perception and assimilation of information.
Thus, in the hands of the prosumers, there was a colossal power that can determine the development of technology for the next decade. And since “prosumerism” is based on a fundamental human feature – the desire to constantly improve the world around him – the relevance of this trend will only increase over time. For companies, this is not only an opportunity to monetize a growing consumer segment and stay one step ahead of competitors, but also a chance to accelerate the approach of the fourth industrial revolution “with a human face” by aligning the processes of creating technologies, goods, and services around the actual needs of users.
- Bradley Pulford is Managing Director & VP, HP Inc., Africa