Customers don’t normally operate pricing guns. That’s why we have this old Steven Wright joke:
The lady across the hall tried to rob a department store — with a pricing gun.
She said, “Give me all of the money in the vault, or I’m marking down everything in the store.”
It wouldn’t be funny if it wasn’t a scary prospect for retailers.
But what if customers actually do get that power, on their own — meaning they don’t get that power from any seller, but from themselves. Like they get their car on their own. Or their wallet. Or their browser. Or their email.
For example, what if each of us had a way to publish an offer price to many retailers at once? For example, “I’ll pay $2500 for a Canon 5D Mk III camera.” (In fact I’ve already said that, through a VRM company called Nifti.) And what if I had a way to escrow that money — and that intention-to-buy — at a bank, ready to pay when a seller meets my price and my terms? That’s the idea (though not the only one) behind EmanciPay. It should be a good business for banks — or for anybody wanting to help activity in markets move faster and more efficiently.
There has already been work in that direction, through the companies listed under Intentcasting here, plus the work some of us did with Innotribe, a division of SWIFT. That work began with discussions at IIW around digital identity, personal data and the EmanciPay idea. Once underway, it evolved into the Digital Asset Grid: a way to move data on the SWIFT network that also moves money, with the same high degree of security. Having a secure way to move both personal data and money seemed like good idea, so we created it, and it’s there for the taking.
Meanwile, let’s say that EmanciPay, or something like it, takes off, and the pricing gun really is in the hands of the customer. Will this be the end of the world for mass marketing? Or for anything? Or will it open a huge new greenfield of opportunity, based on much better signaling of pricing — and other variables — by customers?
Like, what if we could signal real loyalty, rather than just the coerced kind we get with loyalty cards? What about convenience? Reliability? Experience with the product, the vendor, and the quality of service?
How would it work if every product we buy, or service we engage, would also serve as the platform for a genuine relationship with maker and/or the seller? This can happen if the product or service comes with its own cloud. Think about that. Your car, your cable modem, your TV, your stove, your dishwasher, your anything can have a cloud of its own, today. Phil Windley calls them picos, for persistent compute objects. When you buy a product with a pico, that cloud might come with all the service materials required, be updated automatically, and contain all the service records as well. And you can add whatever you want to it, or use it as a communications conduit between you and the product’s maker or seller.
This is what makes Fuse (by Phil & company) such an important Kickstarter project. It’s not just a second dashboard for your car in a mobile app. It’s your platform for relationships with the car maker, your mechanic, or others in your family who also use the car. Think of it as a service gun. Or the platform for one.
There’s no limit to what you can imagine if you’re an independent party with full agency, rather than a serf in some company’s castle. Or to what can happen between people and companies that value each other’s independence.