Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Value2Me -- The Heart of a New E-Commerce

In the quest to introduce a new way to think about commerce and transform our economy, I am considering a new name that might better capture the heart of the strategy that I have been calling "FairPay." That new name is "Value2Me" -- suggestive of the core pricing issue facing the consumer:
    What is the value to me? (and why?)
Does anything else really matter?

The Value2Me process builds on the Value2Me in each transaction -- as the basis for a dialog about value between the buyer and the seller -- in the context of an ongoing relationship.  That dialog, as it unfolds in a series of transactions, serves as a price discovery process that seeks economic efficiency, in a relationship that is beneficial to both the buyer and the seller:

1. The buyer side driver:
  • What is the Value2Me (as experienced, after trial)?
  • Why should the seller accept that as fair compensation from me?
2. The seller side counterbalance (which the buyer must also consider):
  • Agreeing to treat each transaction as a trial offer, in which any Value2Me price I (the buyer) choose to set is final.
  • Deciding based on my Value2Me price--and the reasons I give for it--whether I am being fair enough that the seller should continue making such offers to me going forward.
This balance -- of buyer-set Value2Me versus seller-controlled judgment of the buyer's fairness as the condition for continuing the relationship -- provides the central dynamic for a new invisible hand. All else is implementation details.

Renaming FairPay? This new model has been widely discussed under the name FairPay (derived from Fair Pay What You Want), but it seems Value2Me may more positively capture the focus on value as it is uniquely perceived by each consumer.  This post seeks to test re-casting the concept in those terms, and to request your opinion on that.  "Value" is the core of all economic value exchange -- we all want value.  "Value2Me" focuses that on the individualized, personalized nature of value perception.

Value2Me for B2C! 

I submit that value to me is the essential criterion for economic exchange, and that the Value2Me process dialog is the best sustainable basis for a new economics.  Value2Me is the best possible sustainable price -- free or other lower prices are nice for consumers, but not sustainable. Seller-set prices almost never reflect Value2Me -- they are usually either too high or too low for most buyers.

The digital economy helps make Value2Me feasible because it enables infinite replication of products/services at almost no cost ("value"), and facilitates mass-customization ("2me").
  • Sellers can afford to continue to make Valeu2Me trial offers to a buyer as long as the buyer does not exploit them unfairly. Any revenue above marginal cost is profit. The only limit needed is to nudge each buyer to pay a price that fairly reflects their personal Value2Me, for that transaction, even if other buyers have a higher or lower Value2Me. 
  • The dialogs are designed to elicit that Value2Me, and to make it clear that it may differ from the value to other buyers due to different contexts:  different usage levels, features, needs, benefits, and ability to pay. 
  • This can be done by presenting usage reports, so buyers appreciate what they received (to focus them on experiential utility)
  • Suggested prices based on that experience can also be provided, so buyers have some guidance of seller expectations (an "anchor" in behavioral economic terms).
  • Cost data can also be provided (as it depends on usage), so buyers can factor in a fair profit level.
  • The "Why" of the buyer's Value2Me response would be relative to the usage, the costs, and the corresponding seller-suggested price.
  • Buyers who stretch the limits of fairness in setting Value2Me can be warned that if they are not more reasonable in the future, they will lose the privilege of paying based on Value2Me, and will have to buy at a conventional fixed price.
Value2Me enables totally adaptive and dynamic pricing in a way that enables a new kind of buyer-sanctioned "price discrimination" -- it is not imposed on the buyer, but actually set by the buyer.  This reaches new levels of economic efficiency by allowing sellers to reach every potential customer who values the product above its marginal cost of production (see The Long Tail of Prices).  Yes, many will pay less than under fixed pricing, but some will pay more, and large numbers who would not have paid at all can now buy and pay enough to expand the total profit. Fixed prices may provide a higher average price, but for a much lower volume. (Free and freemium have similar problems and more.)

Making this work as well as possible will take sophisticated automation to track buyer Value2Me, and "choice architectures" that apply behavioral economics to nudge buyers to fully recognize that value--with consideration to the costs of providing it (and to a fair profit). That is outlined elsewhere in this blog and the FairPay Web site. But the core idea is simple, and the process can be made simple and intuitive.

The term "Value2Me" also helps in emphasizing how this new perspective on commerce not only makes pricing and marketing more efficient, but can empower more effective product design and development. It focuses sellers on measuring perceived value, and on seeking to deliver maximum value to each of their customers on a customized basis. It facilitates a more adaptive and dynamic product development process that seeks to offer each customer the features and services that he needs to maximize his Value2Me.

In the past commerce relied on fixed prices that had to dance around the question of Value2Me -- now it can zero in on it. Value2Me for B2C!
All of this is consistent with previous discussions using the term FairPay. It is just a subtle shift of emphasis -- a use of words that may have a more positive appeal to consumers, and a more direct suggestion of the basis in value as perceived by each buyer.

Comments are invited! And please take our survey on the new name.