“But real-time feedback indicated that customers wanted more moderately priced items. We added items such as phone cards, small gardening equipment, and cutlery. Items that cost less than $100 now comprise about half of our business.
“This experience hit on a key point: Getting valid feedback from customers is a lot more powerful than relying on focus groups. We have a ‘Product Request’ button on our home page that gives us an idea of what new items we should provide, and users contact us thousands of times per week. I’ve coined a term for how we make decisions at Mercata: ‘customer-driven business evolution.’ Customers tell us where to go, and we let them guide our decisions.”