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Is it Time to Kill the Term ‘Consumer’?

January 8, 2014 By Paul Chaney
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If we removed the noun "consumer" from the retail lexicon, what would we lose?

The reason I ask is because the participatory nature of social media has rendered the term invalid (or at least not as valid as it once was). In an era where people are no longer merely consumers of information, but purveyors of it, the appellation seems out of place.

In the mind of some, the word could even be considered offensive due to the fact that it pejoratively stereotypes people as little more than selfish materialists whose entire lives are bent on Conehead-like massive consumptive behavior.

In Search of a Better Word
If we cease to use the term consumer to describe those who purchase products, with what do we replace it? "Customer" is a better word, but that still doesn't do it justice. Perhaps a more preferable term is "people." 8thBridge was built on the conviction that brands should reshape themselves around people. Retailers should view their customers as real people, gauging the value of their influence beyond just the three transactional data points — name, product purchased and purchase amount.

People as Promoters
Speaking of assessing customer value, another "P" word — one that will appeal to retailers — is "promoter." Not the "carnival barker" variety, mind you, but the term as found in Net Promoter Score (NPS), a management tool used to gauge the loyalty of a brand's customer relationships.

NPS is based on the perspective that every company's customers can be divided into three categories — promoters, passives and detractors — with the idea being that brands court promoters, who are those most likely to recommend the brand to their friends.

Commenting on the value of NPS, 8thBridge CEO Wade Gerten said, "From a retail standpoint, people are participants in and even controllers of the purchase process. Their influence and advocacy carries great weight, especially when they can easily share their brand and product preferences with friends and followers on social networks."

‘Consumer’ Bears Negative Connotation
A Time magazine article suggests there's yet another reason we should stop referring to people as consumers; it makes us more selfish.

 
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