The new consumers

Shape-shifting consumers in the Networked Society

The new consumers

Shape-shifting consumers in the Networked Society


Commerce and consumption in the Networked Society

As the world has evolved from the age of industrialization to the Networked Society, the nature of consumption has also changed.

Commerce and consumption in the Networked Society

The evolution of consumers’ consumption patterns is intertwined with the disruptions that have transformed industries, cities and society alike. Businesses that grasp the new reality will be the ones that survive transformation to grow and flourish.

Furthermore, the evolving nature of consumption means that growth no longer has to be at the expense of the global environment.

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A tale of two transforming cities

The Networked Society transforms everything. As industries and consumers evolve, so too do the places they live. Two cities in particular represent some of the more dynamic aspects of transformation, highlighting the evolving face of modern consumption and commerce.


Detroit – rise of the indiepreneurs

Detroit was once the symbol of the Industrial Age, the birthplace of the American auto-industry and a corporate and cultural capital. But with the institutional failure of corporations and government, Detroit went into rapid decline. The auto industry contracted dramatically, followed by social and economic breakdown, which hollowed out the city’s center, eventually leading to the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

But from the crumbling cityscape, new models are now springing up. Self governance, community activism, social entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, buy-local movements, and other new forces are replacing the broken social contract with self-defining urban communities.

The Bay Area

The Bay Area – the spiritual home of the Networked Society

The Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Silicon Valley, is in many ways the spiritual home of the Networked Society, the symbol of technological entrepreneurship and disruptive creativity. Long famed for its bohemianism, diversity, and individual expression, it was a natural birthplace for the startups and non-conformists who were prepared to break with tradition, challenge existing models, and innovate their way to success.

As the tech industry has blossomed there, the Bay Area has attracted a population ready and eager to embrace change. Many of the trends that sweep across the rest of the Networked Society start in the Bay Area, where the creative elites, intent on visionary leadership place more trust in digital technologies than institutions to solve social problems.

Read the case stories

A new era

Disruption of the old consumption logic

The Industrial Age marked one of the great transformations in human history. Mass manufacturing both enabled and required mass consumption and highly organized labor forces. The flood of people from rural societies to cities accelerated social and economic changes. For the first time in history, consumption became a leisure activity and individuals became defined by their patterns of consumption.

Disruption of the old consumption logic

If the early part of the 20th century was marked by a focus on improving the means of production, the great gains of the latter half began to be seen in the increasingly sophisticated means of consumption. Digital technologies were first the province of the business world, but as they entered consumer markets, prices rapidly fell and advances became exponential.

New market actors

ICT and big data are fueling the rise of a third economy in which new market actors – commercial, “indiepreneurial,” and crowd-sourced – are empowered with new models of production and exchange, as well as automated, frictionless and highly personalized consumption.

In this third economy, products give way to services, and consumers adopt more – and more complex – roles as consumers, users, co-creators, citizens, specialists, and actors. Collaboration, crowdfunding, crafting and sharing are just some of the hallmarks of the modern, involved consumer.

New market actors

Read the report “Disruption of the old consumption logic”

The sharing economy

Rethinking the value of ownership

The 20th century elevated consumption to be central and critical to the economic system, occurring as a consequence of the way production and labor were organized. But by the dawn of the new century, developed societies were grappling with the challenge of creating a more humane form of consumption, driven by three major forces: lower labor demands in technological industry, erosion of the social contract, and the environmental costs of reckless consumption on increasingly scarce natural resources.

Shifting from goods you own to possibilities available to you

Shifting from goods you own to possibilities available to you

In the new consumption logic, focus begins to shift from the goods you own to the possibilities available to you. New technologies allow consumption to now be organized at the grassroots level, putting more control in the hands of communities and digital ecosystems. The sharing economy emerges, extracting new and greater values from existing goods rather than relying on greater production of new goods.

Ultimately, organized consumption is becoming a new form of work, allowing productive, participative, and meaningful lifestyles with lower reliance on traditional institutions.


In the sharing economy a parked car is a wasted opportunity


57% agree access is the new ownership


81% agree it is less expensive to share goods than to own them individually


In the sharing economy an unwanted computer is a resource, not landfill

Read the report “The sharing economy”

Emerging consumer values

Consumers become curators rather than receivers

The Networked Society encourages a rise of meritocracy and the formation of a creative elite – a development that is both empowering and challenging. Within this order, merit is increasingly defined by a new set of emerging values, such as knowledge, transparency, fairness, quality of experience, authenticity, sociality, healthiness, and simplicity.

Consumers become curators rather than receivers

Knowledge informs consumption, helping consumers become curators rather than just receivers. Data drives transparency, levelling the marketplace and improving access. Likewise, more knowledgeable consumers are better placed to resist unfair market conditions. As technologies and products are increasingly commoditized, consumers now favor experiences, access, and services over ownership of items.

Read the report “Emerging consumer values”

The versatile consumer

The new consumer in the Networked Society

Consumption is no longer the straightforward, disproportionate exchange of the Industrial Age. The consumer in the Networked Society is more complex, more involved, and more versatile than ever before. Today we need a nuanced understanding of the consumer – someone who consumes products and services while behaving and contributing in many new ways. In the Networked Society, we see the consumer take on new roles, as user, co-creator, ennobler, enabler, producer, and activist.

The roles of the new consumer

User / Co-creator / Ennobler
Enabler / Producer / Activist

Any individual can take on all of these roles, in different combinations across different transactions. And while every market will comprise consumers in different roles, most categories will have their share of passionate and highly involved consumers.

Read the report “The new consumer in the Networked Society”

Why Ericsson?

How does Ericsson contribute

Ericsson helps shape the Networked Society, leading transformation across industries and societies with transformative technologies. Ericsson’s innovations in mobility, broadband, and the cloud provide the platforms that give people the ability to create their own opportunities and enable industries to deliver new value in new and surprising ways.

We are also collaborate and partner broadly to help traditional players develop transformative ways of advancing society and unlock new financial, environmental, and societal values.

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