My longtime friend Doc Searls has a vision, one that I fully endorse, of turning the tables on vendors, in an interesting way.
They talk about Customer Relationship Management, which views the world from the vendor's perspective.
Doc proposes Vendor Relationship Management, which is a similar idea, but designed from the customer's point of view.
In the CRM view, the vendor creates the products and then sells them to targeted customers. You end up being pitched on things you already have or things you don't want. Occasionally they hit the bulls eye and offer you something you really want. But that doesn't happen often.
3D printing is an example of Doc's VRM idea. The vendor provides the means of manufacturing, you specify exactly what you want. The product is created, sent to you, and theoretically you're happy and the vendor makes a profit. But it depends on the customer becoming a product designer. I might not want to do that. I might just want the perfect product and am willing to pay for someone else, an expert, to design it for me.
A more satisfying version of VRM goes like this.
I am watching a lot of TV these days, with the election and World Series, and the NBA season starting on Tuesday. I like my couch, but since I'm spending so much time on it, maybe it could be optimized. Or maybe I could add a new piece of furniture specifically for TV watching.
How this works in the post-VRM world: I find a way to express the desire, and make it available to vendors, either making it public or putting it somewhere the vendors I've authorized can access. Their bots scan all the requests as they come online, decide if they have a product that might fit the bill. If so, they send me a proposal, otherwise known as an ad.
But it's different from the ads we have today, it's responsive, to borrow a term from web design. They know what I'm looking for, because I told them, and it can present itself to me in that context.
Other things I would put in my VRM outbox --
These are just examples meant to illustrate the idea. I think when this idea is fully realized it'll feel something like a search engine combined with email-based alerts. And because it's centered on commerce, on money changing hands, there should be plenty of investor money available. Yet I don't see any evidence that investment is flowing this way.
Someday commerce will work like this and it will be as revolutionary in comparison to today's net-based shopping as it was to physical-world shopping a few years ago.
BTW, on a humorous note, you could think of this post as a VRM query for VRM itself.