The Nerds are Coming

I think the way we buy things is changing. Two recent family purchases have convinced me that one day, everyone will buy stuff like a nerd.

The other day I needed a mouse pad. We keep our family computer on a cheap desk with wood *effect* surface on the top and repeated mouse use has starting to leave a mark. So I picked up my phone one evening and had a quick look on Amazon for a basic mouse pad. After 15 minutes I realised that mouse pads were no simple matter and fired up the family desktop to properly assess the market. I eventually opted for a £12 hard gamer mouse pad. I liked the colour, the reviews were almost all good (never trust something with no negative reviews) and I felt the hard surface wouldn’t gather dust and dirt like a fabric one would. I could have spent a lot more time and money on it though.

I wouldn’t normally have thought anything of the fact that I was obsessive about getting the best sub £15 mouse pad on the market, but then my wife did the exact same thing with buying a hair dryer. She’d looked for a highly recommended one on the mumsnet forums and eventually tracked down a UK retailer who stocked this rare US model. She uses a hair dryer every day and was prepared to spend time and money optimising that particular 5 minutes of her day. That got me thinking, maybe there is a more to this change of purchasing style than my own geekery?

What’s different now from a few years ago is that every market sector has an over supply of choice, it used to just happen with clothes (hence the concept of Fashion, to help filter down the choice). Now other industries are developing their own over supply of choice online, and I think people are dealing with it by going deep into the areas that most interest them.

Into coffee? You can get the best beans, the best mug, the best espresso machine, the best milk and the best chocolate sprinkles in the world. It’s not just available, it’s getting increasingly accessible. Reviews and forums will help you decide on the best choice for you and google + e-commerce will let you order it no matter how far away it is.

In the last few years while the geeks have been inventing web 2.0, the rest of the world has been discovering forums, discussion threads, upvoting, meetups and online reputation. Throw in a bit of facebook groups and ebay and suddenly “normal people” are getting very into whatever it was they were only vaguely into before.

I’m having an increasing number of conversations with non-techies about things like; them explaining the culture from some forum they go to, or them asking me how to SEO their business’s website, or them telling me how they tracked down a particular niche item online.

If this continues, eventually everyone will be a nerd in something.