Buyer beware of what else is on the shelf
Everyone is a consumer and as consumers we have huge power. It's crazy. Consumer sentiment can change an organisation's fortunes in a heartbeat. Every dollar spent influences the world we live in. Consumer power should never be underestimated, organisations do so at their peril. Consumers are increasingly aware of this power and using it to make a change.
With climate change, for example, consumers are voting with their pockets on what they want. Ditching cars for bikes or public transport. Swapping meat for vege. Plastic for paper. Consumers are using their power to further important goals. Producers on the wrong side of this may complain about moralistic consumption but frankly, that's the market. Not everyone simply wants to be a utility-maximizing price shopper. Using consumption dollars to influence how organisations act is a highly effective way for consumers to encourage change.
Of course, everyone is a price shopper to an extent. Who doesn't compare prices when walking down a supermarket aisle? But price isn't everything and organisation's broader values around issues like sustainability are increasingly important. With just a few clicks consumers can find out if organisations are behaving badly so organisations need to be mindful of how they act.
Consumer awareness is key
Consumers need to be careful as well though. Activism can quickly go south when it is paired with miscommunication and misunderstanding. Every so often you hear stories of small business owners struggling due to poor reviews left by angry customers over a mix-up. In the internet age social media gives us a megaphone to vent our frustrations over these perceived injustices. There is a person who suffers because of that nastiness. The internet doesn't require accuracy or proper context. What is said online often matters more then it should.
Information differences can make it difficult for consumers to spend their money as intended. Few people would knowingly spend $100 on a pair of shoes today if it was going to be on sale for 50% off tomorrow. Similarly, if it was obvious when buying that pair of shoes that they had been made by children working in poor conditions, odds are they would stay on the shelf. It is unreasonable to do significant research prior to every purchase. This is where organisations need to step up or governments need to step in.
Market dynamics also makes it challenging to spend wisely. What if there is only one company providing a product? Consumers can be stuck making decisions that go against how they would operate in a market with choice and competition. To an extent we can see this with companies like Facebook. While you may not like how they operate around issues like fake news, isn't it so dam hard to find a valid alternative?
Spend your votes wisely
Despite these challenges there has never been a better time to be a consumer. With vast amounts of information to make a decision consumers are well-armed to spend their dollars wisely. Fierce competition for consumer's money sees businesses constantly innovating their products and services, and their image, to increase appeal. In this environment consumers can use their dollars to influence and make a difference.
Every dollar is a vote. Make sure it counts.
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