The prosumer concept was introduced in 1980 by futurist Alvin Toffler in his book The Third Wave. According to Toffler, the future would once again combine production with consumption. In The Third Wave, Toffler saw a world where interconnected users would collaboratively 'create' products. Note that he foresaw this over 10 years before the web was invented!
Alternative notions of the prosumer, all of which are applicable to e-marketing, are catalogued at Logophilia WordSpy (www.wordspy.com):
1 A consumer who is an amateur in a particular field, but who is knowledgeable enough to require equipment that has some professional features:
2 A person who helps to design or customise the products they purchase: ('producer' + 'consumer').
3 A person who creates goods for their own use and also possibly to sell: ('producing' + 'consumer').
4 A person who takes steps to correct difficulties with consumer companies or markets and to anticipate future problems:
An example of the application of the prosumer is provided by BMW who used an interactive web site prior to launch of their Z3 roadster where users could design their own preferred features. The information collected was linked to a database and as BMW had previously collected data on its most loyal customers, the database could give a very accurate indication of which combinations of features were the most sought after and should therefore be put into production.
Companies can also consider how the Internet can be used to change the range or combination of products offered. Some companies only offer a subset of products online - for example, WH Smith launched an interactive TV service which offered bestsellers only at a discount. Alternatively, a company may have a fuller catalogue available online Bundling than is available through offline brochures. Bundling is a further alternative. For exam-
Offerin9 ple, easyJet has developed a range of complementary travel-related services including servk-es"8"'317 flights, packages and car hire. McDonald and Wilson (2002) note how the potential for substituted or reconfigured products should be assessed for each marketplace.
Finally, it should also be noted that information about the core features of the product becomes more readily available online, as pointed out by Allen and Fjermestad (2001). However, this has the greatest implications for price (downwards pressure caused by price transparency) and place and promotion (marketers must ensure they are represented favourably on the portal intermediaries) where the products will be compared with others in terms of core features, extended features and price.
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