I’ve never really liked the laser-like focus on “intent to buy” as the primary VRM signal. It seeks to intervene just prior to the exchange of value and makes too many limiting assumptions about what value actually is. My usual example is that I’d like to communicate intent through policy settings such as “don’t show me DRM-enabled content when I search” or “show me DRM-enabled content only if nothing else is available.” If people set these policies in sufficient numbers, it could send a clear signal to vendors. When it comes to “smart” appliances and Internet of Things, vendors have been putting out crap and assume the lack of signal means we aren’t interested. The MASSIVE success of crowdfunding IoT devices demonstrates that absence of interest signal is not signal of interest absence.
The territory between purchase intent and preference signaling might perhaps be called “intent to form intent.” I seem to be in Major Purchase Hell at the moment as all of my big-ticket items are dying off. After several iterations, I’ve come to realize that selling intent to purchase, as it is usually discussed in the VRM community, is inadequate to my needs. When my lawn tractor was diagnosed with a $500 repair I needed to make a quick repair/buy decision. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. You must first research the market to see what you’d buy if you bought new, then research the quality reviews from Consumer Reports and similar, then figure out your best price on the potential replacement. Perhaps you go through a similar process for used items. Once you have that you can make an informed repair purchase decision. Whether this ever becomes intent to spend money depends on whether you are the repair shop or the dealer. Until I’ve made the decision, neither the shop nor the dealer have a strong incentive to participate.
If I eventually decide to buy, a retailer may find my intent signal interesting. But nearly all of my investment in time and effort occurs well before I ever get to that point. Once I do buy a new lawn tractor, the retail vendor is once again out of the picture. Where VRM stands to help me most is the relationship with the repair shop because that’s who I see at least once a year for service, and with the manufacturer as a source of authoritative information and to express design preferences.
This is why, at least to me, focusing on purchase intent misses most of the potential for VRM. The vendor may like that model because they repeat that transaction frequently. For me, that’s often a once-a-decade or less transaction. Why optimize it? Or, more to the point, why spend time optimizing that instead of the activities where most of my time and effort is spent? Sure there is some benefit in saving $50 or $100 on a lawn tractor in that one transaction I do every 10 or 20 years. But that’s VM, not VRM. Personally, I’d gladly forgo the $50 or $100 at purchase if I could reduce the investment of time prior to the sale (the “intent to form intent” phase) or over the lifetime of the tractor.
Anyway, these are some random thoughts that occurred to me during the course of recently repairing/replacing…
- Lawn tractor
- Garage door springs
- Built-In microwave
- Built-in oven
- Broken HVAC duct actuator in a zoned system
…which involved lots of time, many potential purchase decisions, and thousands of dollars expended, but none of which resulted in the sale of a replacement item. That’s a helluvalotta VRM opportunity for my service providers and device manufacturers, but not even one signal-my-intent-thru-my-browser event ever resulted from it. VRM has to live where I live, where I expend most of my time and attention. If all it wants to do is live in my browser when I click [BUY] then it’s just VM.