Tag: Personal RFP

Personal RFP

Terry Heaton just pointed me to . A couple paragraphs:

Any wasting asset–a restaurant table, a seat at a conference, a wasting box of fish–can be efficiently used instead of wasted if we use technology to identify and coordinate buyers.

Synchronizing buyers to improve efficiency and connection is a high-value endeavor, and it’s right around the corner. It will permit mesh products, better conferences, higher productivity and less waste, while giving significant new power to consumers and those that organize them.

Seth’s talking about aggregation here: people getting together in groups to assert demand. This is a good idea, but I don’t think it’s VRM. Not exactly, anyway.

VRM starts with one customer, expressing demand in his or her own ways, rather than in aggregate, or in ways provided by one commercial system or another. (For example, this blog is my own way of publishing. I’m not using Facebook or Twitter or anybody’s system.)

We don’t yet have a single, canonical VRMmmy way to issue a personal RFP, or to have it heard. Rather than explain what a personal RFP is, let’s just lift the whole entry from the page by that title in the ProjectVRM wiki:

Personal RFP

An RFP is a buyer-initiated procurement protocol used by businesses, governments and other large organizations. It is, literally, what the letters stand for: a Request For Proposal. Among a suite of similar TLAs (three letter acronyms) that begin with “Request for” — RFI (Request for Information), RFQ (Request for Quotation), RFT (Request for Tender) — RFP is the most familiar.

RFPs, however, are about as personal as heavy construction. They’re something only big organizations do.

In a VRM context, however, an RFP is something an individual should be able to do in the open marketplace. An individual should be able to issue an RFP that says, for example,

– “I need a stroller for twins in Glasgow in the next three hours.” – “I need a ThinkPad T60 power supply near SFO this afternoon.” – “I need to rent a minivan that seats six and has a roof rack in Salt Lake City next week.” – “I need wheel rims for a 1967 Peugeot 404.” – “I need a 200 watt 220-110 volt power converter in Copenhagen this afternoon”

[Scott Adams calls this] “broadcast shopping.”

The customer can also provide a sum he or she is willing to pay. He or she should be able to do this in a way that is secure and involves minimal disclosure of personal information.

There are many ways this can be done now, through non-substitutable websites and services. Craigs List and eBay both provide means for requesting products. Twitter does too. And Etsy.

What makes a personal RFP a VRM protocol is the substitutability of the services answering the request. The customer should be able to express demand in the open marketplace rather than only within a single intermediary’s silo or walled garden.

Personal RFPs can be thought of as a form by which demand advertises to supply, rather than vice versa. It involves no guesswork about what the customer wants, or whether there is money on the table.

As matters currently stand, there is an enormous sum of demand — such as the RFPs mentioned above — that can result in MLOTT (Money Left On The Table) if the supply side fails to hear the demand and complete a sale. There is no equivalent of the RFP, RFI and RFQ for individuals. Yet the demand exists. Money is there. What we need is the table.

That table is a set of protocols, rituals and systems for routing requests from demand to supply, and responses back. Setting up that table is a primary challenge for VRM.

There are sites that do this. RedBeacon is one. But can we imagine issuing a personal RFP without an intermediary like RedBeacon?

We’ve visited this question before. Wondering what we’ve learned in the (nearly) two years since then.

Advertising in Reverse

Here in the VRM development community we’ve been talking (and in some cases working) for several years on the Personal RFP. Technically an RFP is a “buyer-initiated procurement protocol” for businesses doing business with businesses: B2B as they say. With VRM the buyer is an individual. Hence, Personal RFP. Not a great label, but one that businesses understand.

Now comes Scott Adams (Dilbert’s cartoonist), with Hunter Becomes the Prey. His compressed case:

Shopping is broken… Google is nearly worthless when shopping for items that don’t involve technology. It is as if the Internet has become a dense forest where your desired purchases can easily hide.

Advertising is broken too, because there are too many products battling for too little consumer attention. So ads can’t hope to close the can’t-find-what-I-want gap. The standard shopping model needs to be reversed. Instead of the shopper acting as hunter, and the product hiding as prey, you should be able to describe in your own words what sort of thing you are looking for, and the vendors should use those footprints to hunt you down and make their pitch…

You can imagine this service as a web site. The consumer goes to the section that best fits his needs (furniture, cars, computers, etc.) and describes what he wants, in his own words. Vendors could set key word alerts via e-mail or text for any products in their general category.

Once they read the customer’s needs online, they have the option of posting their solution, publicly, which gives other vendors and consumers an opportunity to offer counterpoints.

I assume this service already exists in some weaker form. www.answers.yahoo.com is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t broadcast your needs to vendors.

My prediction is that Broadcast Shopping (as I just decided to name it) will become the normal way to shop.

I love “broadcast shopping.”

Where I veer from Scott’s approach is with the assumption that this requires “a site.” That’s because sites become silos, and silos are a big part of the problem we also have with loyalty cards. All are different. All say We have ways of making you shop. Tll trap and control you in their own ways. We need something that serves as a customer’s own tool, and works as simply as a keyring, a car key, an emailing, or a text message. “Here’s what I want: _________.” That’s it.

In business, RFPs use an open protocol (essentially, formalized paperwork and bidding processes). Anybody can use it. We need the same for broadcast shopping. Any of us should be able to broadcast, in a secure and selective way that protects our privacies, specified goods we’re shopping for.

I use the plural of privacy because what we reveal selectively will depend on who we already relate to. For example, say I have a trusted relationship with Nordstrom, Sears and a variety of smaller clothing retailers. I could broadcast only to those stores my need for a tan cotton dress shirt of a particular brand, with a 17″ neck and 31″ sleeves (my actual dimensions, there — I have a linebacker’s neck and arms like a penguin’s flippers). Or I could broadcast the same need to the general marketplace through a fourth party that intermediates on my behalf, not revealing any information about me beside my actual need.

One scenario Scott describes in his post…

For example, let’s say you’re looking for new patio furniture. The words you might use to describe your needs would be useless for Google. You might say, for example, “I want something that goes with a Mediterranean home. It will be sitting on stained concrete that is sort of amber colored. It needs to be easy to clean because the birds will be all over it. And I’m on a budget.”

Your description would be broadcast to all patio furniture makers, and those who believe they have good solutions could contact you, preferably by leaving comments on the web page where you posted your needs. You could easily ignore any robotic spam responses and consider only the personalized responses that include pictures.

… outlines a broad class of needs where the customer’s mind is not yet made up. Those are within the scope of VRM, but I think we should start with cases where the actual requirements are known by the buyer, and the buyer can set the terms of engagement. For example, “I want my receipt emailed to me in (this specified) data format, and I don’t want to receive any promotional material.”

All this is not only do-able, but inevitable.

I’ll conclude with a pitch of my own for funding research and development on this work.

Google should be interested because Advertising in Reverse, or Broadcast Shopping (a term I love, by the way), will either undermine or replace the company’s standing business model (which pays for all those freebies we enjoy).

Microsoft should be interested because this could give them something Google doesn’t have yet.

Yahoo should be interested because they need something new that’s a winning idea. Amazon and eBay should be interested because they’re already in that business, though in a silo’d way.

Oracle should be interested because it will sell more databases and Sun gear.

Apple should be interested because it’s one more area where they can push for new standards on which the range of innovation goes through the roof.

Every retailer and intermediary should be interested because the promise of the Net for buyers is not an infinite variety of closed silos, but a truly open marketplace where any buyer can do business with any seller — and on the buyer’s terms and not just the seller’s.

Like everything else we will come to depend on utterly while remaining absent in the present, VRM is thoroughly disruptive idea. It’s always smart to get ahead of the curve by getting behind what will bend it.

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