What Do Customers Want?

In his book Meatball Sundae Seth Godin lists a list:

Anti-bush
Army wife
Autism
Costume alternatives
Dance
Kakopelli
Marines
Nuclear
Vegetarian
Weenies

These (in alphabetical order) are the top 10 searches on cafepress.com, the 284th most popular website in the world.

No tee shirt retailer could have predicted this is what customers wanted.

What cafe press has done is flip the product development model. Instead of guessing what customers want and then promoting it like crazy cafepress.com can sit back and listen to their customers long before sending orders to their printing shop.

So what lesson does this list have for retailers?

Retailers that just want to use their online store to sell more of what they sell offline are completely missing out on the new paradigm of commerce. They need to look at the web as an opportunity because this is the first time they can listen to their customers, not just focus groups and survey respondents, but their entire customer base. Those who make sense of their customer chatter will be the giants of tomorrow.

Related post: Discovering New Categories

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