COMsumers

Unbound Spiral: P2P Personalization

February 5, 2001 09:09 PM

Personalization in tomorrow’s world will offer a disruptive antidote to the corporation-controlled information assets of today. Today many customers feel powerless; they have little interest or access to the customer information that companies hold on them, and often engage with organizations that have never given a second thought to how these customers might eventually respond.

Even as personalization systems presume to connect organizations more effectively with their customers, the prevailing eCRM logic has organizations controlling the development of their customer relationship protocols. Customer lock-in remains an objective, and mobility of customer information assets is seldom considered.

But a new competitive landscape is beginning to emerge as the Internet changes the direct relationships between organizations and consumers. Companies will compete for attention as both employees and customers form new peer-to-peer relationships. In the P2P world, it is clear that increased connectivity leads to faster learning.

The increased speed with which customers are learning could significantly affect the future landscape in which organizational decisions are played out. Examples like Napster, which by October 2000 had over 35 million users and was still growing (despite ongoing court proceedings) at 1+ million users per week, show customers learning new behavior patterns and experiencing new forms of Internet enabled functionality.

A paradox is emerging. What strategies will enable companies to retain a world-class position--close to your customers--in a world where consumer groups may be empowered to learn faster than their traditional suppliers? Consider for a moment where your organization will be positioned when your customer information is completely interconnected. Or what happens when the customer reclaims their information and aggregates it for their personal benefit. A new threat emerges to corporate information management systems.

Isn’t it possible that consumers could combine the Internet’s power to collect information with personalized tools in real time affinity groups — groups that control their information assets and pool them collectively for their advantage?

Managing our own information

We as consumers must start managing our information. It’s clearly valuable, and will either result in lower prices to us, or improved access to alternate sources. Farfetched? Maybe, but just consider: What if your competitor gave their customer data records back to their customers and offered to manage this information openly for them for a minuscule percentage? Similarly, what if they offered to capture your data when you shop at a competitor? Are you ready to adopt your customer’s data standard when this new community starts pooling this asset?

At this point the customer’s data has moved outside of the corporate business model. Suddenly, this community by aggregating their personalized network assets knows more about their needs and their development desires than your organization. This asset is now self accelerating, as each customer individually adds to the database, the network multiplier accelerates the benefits. Maybe I’m pushing the boundaries here.

But consider the focus of today’s early discussion around the first wave of P2P (Napster, Scour, Groove Networks etc). This discussion focuses on the logical consequences to business models and intellectual property. What we are missing is a market-orientated view.

Strategy for a consumer market network

First take the high ground by enabling your customers to use their customer records. Your objective is to facilitate the growth of this strange, new-networked information market, perhaps earning a percentage on the information. This strategy reflects a clear shift from info ownership to custodian. New data strategies then include facilitating record mobility, responsiveness, connectivity, and access.

Benefits are realized when your emerging community begins to learn faster than your traditional systems. Like high performing teams, the excitement and energy from this ongoing community release of tacit knowledge will fuel improvements in your asset alignment, adaptability and responsiveness to product / service requests.

To conclude, begin by thinking about your personalization systems with an aim to create is a world-class networked community. Ultimately P2P personalization enhancements will make networked info markets more personalized and responsive. This is much more than just your organization and its customers. The Internet transition is inviting you and your organization to create a new information network.