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Networking power and Corporation Community

Ronnie AptekerPulling power. Buying power. The power in numbers.

Today’s column is all about the power of networks, and networking. The opposite of networking is not working, as a wise man once said to me.

Have you ever walked into a store and asked for a cash discount. And how about a bulk discount?

Not so easy when you are on your own. But if you knew of someone else who wanted to buy the same car, say, then perhaps you could go to the car dealer and ask for a better price if you purchased two new vehicles instead of one. And perhaps you could now go and find a few more friends who want the same car.

As your network of liked-minded buyers grows, then so does your leverage. Networking is all about leverage. Both offline and online.

But, as we realize, it is easier than said than done. Who has time to canvas all their friends to see what they are wanting to spend their hard earned money on, in an effort to get a bulk discount. But wait a minute; this is what technology is so good at doing.

Imagine building an online service whereby you can announce what you are keen to buy and if there are any similar shoppers out there they can put their name on a list and before you know it you can group together as a bunch of aligned consumers. Then, you present yourselves as an army of buyers and aim for that bulk discount.

China is a land which is famous for its networking. In China, business is all about one’s network – this is part of the culture. Many web sites have popped up in China, for example, to promote “team buying”. And the number one item that the Chinese consumer at large is trying to get a deal on is in the electronics space.

What the Internet has always done was bring people together, virtually. And now, you have consumers that are gathering online before grouping together at a physical store in an effort to bargain down the price.

This team buying trend first began in cyberspace in the online newsgroups and in the chat rooms. But, the web has taken over from here and has added intelligence and sophistication to the mission.

We have seen in years gone by the price comparison engines that sprung up on the Internet, with offerings like Froogle, and Priceline. But this team sport phenomena bands consumers together looking for the same goodies. And then, off they go in the real world to present their bulk buying argument to, what must be, a flabbergasted store manager, who doesn’t know where to turn.

This all about flexing one’s collective consumer muscle. Sounds like the people of the world are getting together to form Corporation Community. Yes, I like that – cool sounding name.

I heard strategist Clem Sunter give a talk earlier this year. And he said that a contract in China is merely a serious intent to negotiate. This new bulk buying team sport seems to fit in well with this ideology. Bargaining appears to be a way of life in China and consumers there treat the pricing stickers in shops as a starting point for their negotiations. The Internet is helping to facilitate this behaviour and it is empowering the consumers out there. You’ve got to love this new technology, and the people that embrace this new world!

  • Ronnie Apteker is one of the founders of Internet Solutions, the country’s largest corporate Internet service provider. He is also a movie producer, an author of two books and sometimes a stand up comedian.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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