The Internet Is All Wrong

What is the true motivation behind the creation of the internet? Wasn’t it intended to link every human in the world to every other human on the planet, and maybe even lead us into a future where all people will be able to comprehend one another better? Instead, there is an overwhelming amount of marketing messages rather than actual communications.

I’ve mentioned this previously on my blog, but the link between supply and demand isn’t as straightforward as it could be, which is one of the reasons why we are inundated with spam and advertisements on the internet.

We have the supply situation under control, and every company in the area is aware of the products and services they offer. They invest a significant amount of money in marketing and advertising their products, which includes everything from billboards and signs to flyers and newspapers to the insanely large number of advertisements that are placed online. As we travel across the world, and as we travel through the world more and more through the medium of the internet, we are subjected to an increasing number of advertisements.

The fact that the click-through rates on our mailers, emails, and online ads are in the range of 2 percent or lower will tell you that the majority of advertisements are not targeted nearly as well as they should be. At any given moment, we are barraged with an overwhelming amount of commercials for goods and services that are now outside of our sphere of interest. Although a large part of this can be attributed to algorithms that require the display of ads in order to be able to charge advertisers, I get the impression that the vast majority of advertising, including advertising that appears to be highly targeted, generates a tremendous amount of revenue for Google and the ad networks, but only a pitiful amount for the advertising businesses.

The engineer in me tells me that the system has tremendous inefficiencies, that there is not a direct match between buyers and sellers, and that other businesses are making a profit in the spaces in between. I have the impression that we are capable of doing a better job – we can do a better job of connecting a buyer and a seller at the exact appropriate time, price, and place, and as a result, we can eliminate the enormous amount of advertising that is wasted on the internet.

Consider for a moment the online marketplace known as eBay. Some people refer to it as the “ideal store” due to the fact that sellers can find buyers for their products and that both parties pay the best possible price for the item being sold. The trade is successful for both sides. eBay is strictly a supply-side player; they are essentially a catalog of different providers. If I, as a buyer, want to make a purchase, I can go to eBay, place a bid on an item, and perhaps end up purchasing it.

However, what about the demand I made? What if I have a specific request?

I’m looking for a place on the internet where I can submit a request for a product or service, and then vendors can compete to offer me that product or service. Is there such a location? There are websites like Upwork where I can submit a request for a service and then invite people to submit bids for the work; but, is there a website where I can submit a request for a certain product?

Say I want to go to Hawaii. Because of the internet and other forms of disintermediation, practically all travel agencies have been driven out of business, and as a result, I need to spend a significant amount of time looking for tickets, hotels, and rental cars. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to post the details of the trip that I want to take, and then have different travel businesses bid on the opportunity to provide it?

This disintermediation was once met with praise since it was seen as handing control of the market back to the end-user. The issue is that the customer does not have enough time or the requisite abilities to perform the best job possible in completing their demands. This prevents the customer from coming up to speed on the essential skills to successfully accomplish the request.

Perhaps in the future, our own personal bots will be able to conduct the searching for us, but in the meantime, why shouldn’t we be able to do the same thing?

Think of it as looking for a job: you can either put your résumé on Craigslist and hope that someone would “buy” you (this represents the supply), or you can look at a job description and try to align yourself with the market’s needs.

I get the impression that some individuals have attempted to construct a demand or matching model, which performs a better job of linking customers and sellers at the appropriate time, place, and price, but that all efforts made up to this point have been unsuccessful. Some people have told me that the reason why this is the case is that people don’t really know what they want until they see it – they need the supply to be in their faces over and over again until the demand hits. However, I believe that the disconnect is less that the customer doesn’t know what they want and more than the product isn’t the correct fit with the expectations of the customer.

The consumer has some suggestions on how the product could be improved, but the retailer can only offer what is currently available. Customers will then buy a product that comes close to meeting their requirements but falls short in some way.

The question is, can we build a demand model for the internet that actually works, matching buyers and sellers so that they can buy products and services at the right place, time, and price, or are we doomed to live in a world that is constantly flooded with sales messages that are not properly targeted?

Or do we even need one?

Should we as marketers be content with these extremely low hit rates for our sales messaging, or should we push for something significantly more effective?

As customers, we have an obligation to demand something of higher quality.

As human beings, we have a responsibility to bring back the original purpose of interests, which was to unite us all and help us better understand one another.