eBulletin - Alan Dix (vfridge limited, aQtive limited and Lancaster University)


understanding the networked market and designing products to transform it


Despite the over-hype, it is true that we are moving towards becoming a networked society, the Internet is the early sign of that, fast on its heels we have WAP-enabled mobile telephony and interactive television, and soon we will have near invisible networked appliances throughout our home and business environments. This is not just a market opportunity to sell more devices and services to more customers, but is a transformation of the nature of the society in which we live and work. Consumers have more information about our products and have more opportunity to interact. Even more important, we can design soft products (software, services, information) that not only lives within this electronic world, but also changes it. Although this is perhaps true of previous communications technologies, such as the introduction of television, the richness of the new networked world means we are facing an unparalleled situation. Product design and marketing have to change equally radically.


All growth comes through feedback. In traditional markets this comes through money. You spend on advertising, PR and sales teams, you get more customers, who pay you more money that you can spend on more marketing … In the Internet this is also true, but in addition we have feedback due to communication. Take electronic greetings cards, the recipients like them and then send them to others. Look at Apple's web site — only 7 tabs and one of them iCards.

Traditional marketing treats the market rather like a monoculture farmer — put in more fertiliser, get more crops. Market ecology transforms this view and says: look at the market as a collection of interrelated groups who communicate with one another, deliver services to one another, pass information to one another. That is an attempt to understand the ecology on interactions within the Internet marketplace. By understanding this ecology we are able to better serve our customers, who do not live in isolation, better able to sell to our customers, because we understand how they relate to the networked world, and better able to design products that work in this complex world. Most important, by understanding interactions we can use the feedback between and within these groups to allow our products to grow.

Human intervention in biological ecologies has not had a good press! Humankind has been slow to realize that anything, a new plant or animal, introduced into a native ecology, not only feeds off that ecology, but also transforms it radically and often for the worse. Only recently has it become possible to carefully introduce species that have specific desired effects — biological pest control, for example. Similarly, in the market ecology, many products introduce new or change the nature of existing communication channels and thus affect the relationships of people. By understanding the nature of the existing relationships, we can plan these transformations and design products that not only fit their desired market niche, but transform the structure of the market itself.

Once we understand the interrelationship between our customer groups we can design products that enhance their relationships and introduce new opportunities for interaction. Critical to this is the design of mutual value into products. They need to be of value to us (we want to make a profit), of value to our customer (else why should they want it), and of value for that customer to use with others. Often we find this is not about a single product, but instead a family of products acting together. This gives rise to feedback as our customers market for us, encouraging others to use our products. Again, this has happened before - a telephone is far more useful when all your friends have one - but now it happens faster and it is easier to introduce 'virtual' products than new physical ones.


understanding our customers + understanding how they interact + mutual value in products
leads to: feedback loops between customer groups
leads to: satisfaction and growth.


Toys for the Boys or Jobs for the Girls. Distinguished Guest Lecture. BCS Cheltenham and Gloucester Branch. 2.15pm Wed. 14th Nov. 2001, CGCHE, Cheltenham, UK.

marketplace ecology - managing the interconnected market groups of the Internet. understanding the way feedback between different groups lead to market growth. bulletin

the lattice of value. principles for designing complementary products that foster their own spread. bulletin

network effects. brief review of network effects and externalities literature in relation to market ecology. bulletin

Cyber-economies and the Real World
keynote at SAICSIT'2001 - South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists Annual Conference. Pretoria, 25-28 September 2001. extended abstract and slides

diversity density Measuring the information loss in the supply chain and changes in the new economy. bulletin

artefact + marketing = product Internet products are formed not just by design, but by how they are sold. bulletin
also in Interfaces, no. 48, Autumn 2001

in a strange land: modelling and understanding cyberspace.
Human-Computer Interaction in the 21st Century". Graz, Austria, 13th January 2001
talk paper and slides

market ecology and market engineering understanding the networked market and designing products to transform it. bulletin

understanding the e-Market and designing products to fit.
E-commerce - issues and directions, London, Jan 2000
talk abstract and slides

the web sharer vision - the producer/consumer distinction breaks down on the web, a whole new class of web products will emerge for the new class of web sharers. bulletin

PopuNET - pervasive, permanent access to the Internet. bulletin

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