The Web and the Consumer   1 comment

Posted at 10:28 am in Economics,Sociology

The growth of the web has empowered consumer, irreversibly changing the way society conducts economic transactions. Individuals can now source goods from across the globe, rather than simply relying on local suppliers, escaping what some have labelled the tyranny of location. Consumers increased search ability has inevitably allowed consumers to source better value, and hence gain more for their money, in turn allowing for increased investment.

I plan to investigate the changes in consumer behaviour and a shift towards a more open economy which have been facilitated by the web. I plan to look at this from the perspective of both the consumer and the producer/ retailer, possibly going towards discussing the growth of the prosumer, for example within the entertainment industry. I also intend to look at the growth of online auction sites, such as eBay and consider whether the growth of such sites it solely due to them allow the consumer to access specific goods, at generally lower price, or whether being a member of such community has its own non tangible benefits, possibly talking a slight detour discussing whether or not such sites allow for the development of a social identity, and rank, and whether or not this can be considered a unique selling point, and benefit of using such a service.

One of the disciplines I plan to use to discuss this with is sociology, discussing how a change in social norms and attitude has facilitated the changes. I intend to look at both large scale macro theories, such as functionalism and Marxism but also looking at more specific and detailed micro theories, such as the development of social norms within online communities. It would also be interesting to look at whether there is a global shift or whether the changes are limited to key small populations or demographics, it may be that many lack the skills, time or equipment required to take advantage of the cheaper prices available online, and as such are still locale bound. If many are not taking advantage, it would be prudent to look at why not.   

The discipline I plan to contrast this with is economics, discussing the models that are available to illustrate the paradigm shift. For example discussing how the growth of the web has allowed suppliers to outsource parts of their business, allowing for lower prices, which could be passed to the consumer or held as greater profit margins, alternatively how companies do not need to rent shop spare or hire large teams of retail staff if they are primarily operating online, this further reduces company cost, allowing for them to retail such goods at lower prices, allowing to consumer to purchase more. As I currently know very little regarding academic economics, I hope this will provide a far more mathematical reasoning and will hopefully contrast well with the methodology and theories of sociology. It would also be interesting to do some future gazing, we all know that due to the recession businesses are facing increasing hard times, with consumers having considerably less disposable income, and expenses such as rent/ mortgages growing, is it inevitable that the vast majority of transactions will migrate to being online in the coming decades?

Upon deciding which disciplines to investigate I started to read through Sociology, Themes and perspectives, by Haralambos and Holborn, which focuses on the main macro theories of sociology and applies them to a variety of variant topic areas, I needed to look at this type of work as I have not looked at this topic area before, I intend to look at more specific works once I have established a grounding. I have made considerably less progress with my reading regarding foundations economics, progressing little further than reading the Wikipedia entries for both economics and game theory. This week I intend to build my economics foundation to allow to start to look at more specific texts.

Written by ca306 on October 26th, 2010

One Response to 'The Web and the Consumer'

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  1. Giddens is a much better intro to sociology than Haralambous. He’s the top dog of modern sociology.


    26 Oct 10 at 10:48 am

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