The Shaping of Things to Come

It’s been a long day, coming at the end of a long week, tiring yet ultimately very fulfilling. I wanted something to read, something very special and very specific. Whatever I chose, it needed to meet the following criteria:

  • escapist and lighthearted yet not superficial and empty of meaning
  • easy on the brain, not a taxing read, yet stimulating and challenging
  • physically in the form of a book yet in essence a web creation

So I thought for a while and decided to go with another read (probably my fourth) of Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things, designed by Lorraine Wild.

I love the book, particularly the repeated theme that people and objects are deeply connected in successive technocultures. And I sat down to read it.

After a while I took a break, made myself a green tea and checked the web for messages. And then I thought to myself, it’s been a few years since the book’s been out, let me see what the reviews have been like.

And one of the places I went to was Amazon. Stuck somewhere deep down the page, I saw this:

It made me think, now that’s the shape of things to come.

You see, I’ve never liked the traditional direct marketing model, the idea of direct mail irks me. I cannot believe that people even consider operating models with such appallingly low hit rates. [In fact, in today’s day and age, I’m surprised that people don’t rise up and rebel at all the waste of paper and postage and time and attention involved in creating and strowing around the junk mail].

My irkedness dropped down a notch or two when Google came along; now, despite the fact that we’d somehow managed to pave the cowpaths, we’d migrated a crappy model, lock, stock and barrel into the new world, at least we’d done away with the waste of paper and ink and postage and the energy costs of physical delivery.

But I was still irked. I felt cheated that we lived with such abysmal click-through levels. Conversations about this with the inestimable Doc then led to my being taught the emergent basics of VRM “at the master’s feet”, as it were.

What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item? 83% buy the item featured on this page.

That is, at least in part, what VRM is about. Letting customers review and recommend things and then connecting those reviews and recommendations to other customers who trust the reviewers and their recommendations. Making it easy for customers to share their intentions with others, to share their actions with others, to share their likes and their dislikes. Their way.

If we get VRM right, then 83% will be a low figure. Imagine the reduction of wastage that is implied in that statement.

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