Creation of Prosumer

The word prosumer has two definitions. Firstly, in 1980, American author Alvin Toffler created the word prosumer. He blended the words consumer and producer to create prosumer and prosumption. He stated that a rise in user participation led to an overlap of production and consumption creating prosumers. However, by the end of the 20th century the term was also seen as a combination of professional and consumer. Social networks and the internet gave the term created in 1980 a relaunch. However, both meanings can be true when talking about prosumers and there are, in fact, many different kinds of prosumers.


Prosumers are the New Consumers

As previously explained, a prosumer is someone who is either a consumer who also produces or a consumer who is also a professional. In the online world, the term describes people who buy things. This is because those who buy items also produce them. For example, someone may buy a plain t-shirt but then customise it by adding a design onto it themselves. So they consumed the t-shirt but also produced a new item from it. Additionally, in the offline world, there are people who grow their own food for their families or as communities. These people consume the food that they have produced, this is also known as voluntary simplicity or simple living.

Personalisation and Testing

Users consume and produce information simultaneously on web pages such as Facebook and YouTube. So-called crowdtesting is a special form of crowdsourcing in which companies can use the manpower and knowledge of the crowd to test the user-friendliness of products and where applicable, refine them. Active participation in the creation of a product turns consumers into prosumers. Meanwhile, existing products can be adapted to meet prosumer wishes, for example individual perfumes or chocolates. The personalization of a product also characterizes the so-called prosumer product. The bridge camera is designed for use by semi-professionals.

People or communities that have solar panels fitted to their homes are also an example of this. They consume energy but when they have a surplus it goes back into the grid, when they need it again they take it back from the grid. They are consuming and producing on a regular basis

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Prosumer Benefits and Problems

For Individuals

When someone is a prosumer they may experience good and bad things. For example, people who are involved in the production and process of what they consume may feel valued and respected by the company. Having their opinion heard and acted upon can boost anyone’s self esteem! Most prosumers are now online giving their opinions and ideas, they may find comfort in the communities they build and may also come up with impressive ideas. In successful cases, this can lead to the prosumer getting the product or service they want.

On the other hand, there may be negative experiences. The prosumer may put in a lot of time and effort to help or show a company how to create a new product or service. Only to see the company reject their ideas or pass them off as their own. Additionally, some prosumers may even invest money or an initial financial outlay only for the idea or service to fail, thus leaving them out of pocket.

For Companies

Companies can learn a lot from prosumers and achieve bigger and better things by listening to them. For example, one company showed an advert for their baby products. One package showed a white man and woman with their baby, the other showed a black woman on her own with the baby. Whilst the company’s intention wasn’t to cause harm, intent does not erase impact. The impact meant that people thought the company was stereotyping black mothers as being single parents. Prosumers voiced this opinion online and suggested the company do better. The company then released a statement explaining how this wasn’t their intent but they were sorry for the misunderstanding, they also showed other products depicting black mothers with fathers and single white mothers. This show of diversity was then applauded and shared by the prosumers causing the company to grow and achieve respect and sales from customers.

Conversely, some companies may rely on prosumers a little too much. What they assume may be a good idea could well turn out to be a disaster. Also, if a company doesn’t engage with prosumers in an efficient or safe manner they could risk their reputation. Some companies may also ignore prosumers leading to poorer outcomes and lower sales. The approach is very important for a company here.

The Power of the Prosumer

Prosumers are a growing trend and people term them as being quite powerful. Recent articles online state that companies are no longer fully in control of their business and the consumers play a larger part. Additionally, the online prosumers such as bloggers, influencers, and people who use social networks push this further. Some people say that prosumers can make or break a business! Here are some examples of prosumerism in action:

  • Social Media
  • For sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube the prosumers are the beating heart! Without prosumers posting content, creating communities and sharing their experiences these businesses simply wouldn’t exist.
  • Flat Pack Companies
  • Many sofa companies sell ready made products delivered to your home. Nabru however sells “flat pack” sofas. All the parts are delivered to the prosumer who then builds it themselves. Ikea is another very popular example where some prosumers shop.
  • Energy Providers
  • Companies such as Enel allow consumers to become prosumers. These energy prosumers generate their own power via solar panels and turbines etc. Any energy they have left over after usage can be sold back to the network.
  • Brand Advocates
  • Some companies such as Shein allow theor consumers to be advocates or ambassadors. These people are often social media users who post content about their experiences as a consumer and offer discount codes to gain the company new custom.
  • Information Sharing Sites
  • Sites like Wikipedia, Medium, and Quora all have prosumers. They produce and consume the content there, similar to social media they produce the content on the site on both sides. For example, Quora is likely to be used by many to both ask and answer questions.