Title: Is the customer an endangered species? Niches and Clusters
Authors: Philip Boxer & Dr Robin Wensley
Category: Working paper
We link together some of the current evidence and experience in consumer and industrial market segmentation studies. The primary consequence of this work is to refocus our attention away from the concept of the product market, a single or multiple resource to be exploited by businesses, towards the concept of the active customer: the customer who uses the various producer offerings by configuring them in such a way as to support his or her needs as best as s/he is able. Such a refocusing suggests a parallel view of market organisation in support of such active customers. In this respect, we echo Wroe Alderson’s writing, and are able to develop his ideas by looking more closely at the ways in which channels of distribution are able to balance the interests of the systems that they link: active customers; and the businesses supplying the channels of distribution. Our conclusion is that the word ‘niche’ has been used to support a view of market organisation which has encouraged a relationship between businesses and customers which does not consider the effect business has on its customers. We will argue that the view parallel to that of “market organisation” is that of “demand organisation”.