We’re getting SKUed !

 

The reason I’m so excited about our latest product SuperTasker is not just because it’s a cool product (and looks pretty according to my unbiased opinion of course !;) that solves a real need in a novel way. More importantly its driving a new macro trend which is way overdue : the introduction of SKUs for services.

 

SKUs (Supplier Keeping Units) are now second nature in the world of physical products.  They are the classification of all things made and sold. The worlds all encompassing ‘product catalogue’. Each SKU is tied in with specific product specs. So buying the same SKU anywhere in the world, through any site or retail store means the same thing pops out of the box. In other words: standardisation.

 

We take this for granted now but SKUs have marked a fundamental shift from a nation of blacksmiths to mass production and standardisation. Before the industrial revolution buying a table, or a bottle of ketchup meant going to a craftsman, blacksmith or the local farmers market. What you got that day would differ to what you’d get the next.  In a nice ironic turn of events that serendipitous discovery in the purchasing process is now finding its way back spurring new hot businesses like Birchbox and Plated amongst many others. Too much standardisation can get boring. But we wouldn’t have come this far if we weren’t able to standardise production to feed a nation en masse.  No doubt our standard of living has massively improved since then. You can buy mass produced items for a fraction of what a craftsman could afford to charge you however hard you bartered.  In economic terms:  we reaped ‘economies of scale’.

 

Yet in intangibles we are STILL a nation of blacksmiths. Try getting a simple logo done on 5 different platforms. The cost will vary drastically as will the quality, and other service elements bundled in the purchase such as number of revisions or the ‘return’ policy.  It’s a hit and miss experience, much like buying goods was before mass production.

 

Some argue that one of the reasons is that you can’t commoditise creative work.  Well. I’m sure that’s exactly what the blacksmith or craftsman in the case above would have said before Henry Ford put them out of business.  There is creativity in virtually EVERY production process. Whether you’re making a table, a pair of shoe laces, a home made ketchup recipe or a logo. There is no reason for them to differ.

 

That’s what we are fundamentally doing at SuperTasker. We are the world’s first catalogue of SKUs in digital services. And we aim to eventually expand to more. But for now we ‘stick to the knitting’ as they say. A design edit, a WordPress fix, an Infographic or creative banner production, to name just a few, are all SKUed. In other words we define what the cost should be, the delivery time, the penalty on lateness, the quality standard (all the ‘producers’ are curated and trained to that standard), and those other service elements like number of revisions per purchase and refund policy. We leave no guesswork to the ‘craftsman’ or the customer. It’s SKUed.

There are so  many analogies with the industrial revolution that just the thought that we may be at the cusp of an equivalent ‘services revolution’ excites me beyond belief. I envision a world where any ‘intangible’ product will be defined to the dot and come with a SKU. You, the customer, should not be haggling price with the producer (the good old barter days in the market), defining specs, or choosing who the best person for the job is – how should you know?  That’s the recipe to getting Screwed not SKUed 😉

 

For now at SuperTasker we are both the production and distribution platform. In economic terms we are ‘vertically integrated’. Much like the first factories were. It took decades to create a whole value chain of suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers.  And they all ship identical SKUs.

 

That will happen here too. There is no question. We are vertically integrated currently because we have to. Henry Ford had to produce and sell everything himself because there were no suppliers or retailers to draw on! Similarly there is no ecosystem currently but one will develop.   Eventually the same SKUs will feed in from multiple production platforms, powered by the crowd, and retailer platforms will sit on top, arbitraging cost and deriving price to market equilibrium. We will no longer have the power to set our own prices as we do today in the ‘cost plus’ fashion (much like the first products were priced). The price will be set by the market.

 

In other words: we will become a REAL market.

 

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