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April 18, 2012

Where digital consumerism is the business.

Posted by Pravin Rao U. B. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:17 AM

No, it's not the digital consumer phenomenon and its irresistible opportunities that I will outline here. That is, indeed, a given. Let's explore what more can be achieved.  

Thus far, most digital consumer stories have been lessons in adaptation - for example, how banks and retail institutions, which originally created self-service channels to cut cost, are now using them to deliver experience. Or how consumer brands, which tuned into social media conversations to keep track of the buzz changed gears to use those insights to understand customers better, create new products (often with customers), improve service levels and so on. Or how other companies reinvented their physical business models to fit into an online universe, faced with a choice of going digital or going bust.

Which is why the case of Duolingo stands out as an example of what can be. Duolingo is a creation of the digital consumer phenomenon and all that it stands for; the digital consumer is not just its raison d'être, it's the very reason it came into existence in the first place.

What is Duolingo? It is a website that provides language training for free. With an ingenious twist, that combines all three aspects of digital consumerism - self-service, personalization and co-creation. The Duolingo website enables people to learn a new language on their own. That's hardly news. But what is, is that they do so by helping to translate web content from one language to another! The pace of learning (a blend of self service and co-creation) is completely personalized, so the more one learns, the tougher the content presented to be translated gets. Could this story drive home the digital consumer point any further? Yes it can... the same content is translated (or learned, if you will) by many, and others get to vote on which translation is best! This is but one story indicative of a whole genre.

Point to ponder: Are our businesses doing enough to harness the opportunities that emerge from evolving with the digital consumer as focus or are we content to merely adapt to change?

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