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Democratic consumerism

This week Asda announced plans to enable its extensive ‘shoppers’ panel’ of customers to have a say in which products are sold on its shelves, with the initiative receiving a warm welcome from the marketing and consumer media.

The idea of democratic consumerism is one of the buzzwords for 2009, but it’s not a new concept as some brands have been running campaigns to encourage and respond to customer feedback in the digital space for some years now. My Starbucks Idea and Electrolux Design Lab are just two examples of brands that have tried to harness the potential of having an open dialogue with consumers in order to incorporate customers’ ideas into their products and services. However, Asda’s plans are a bold and admirable move in a sector that has often been criticized for its mass market approach to retailing.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s have both scored PR wins by securing prime-time TV series charting their endeavours to incorporate employees’ and would-be manufacturers’ ideas into their stores. However, Asda’s plans appear to be one of the first times a major UK retailer has committed to incorporating consumer feedback into their business on a long-term basis. In the web 2.0 world maintaining a two-way dialogue with customers is key. The challenge now is proving customers’ feedback has been listened to and translated onto the high street. We’ll have to wait and see…