The age of the customer

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Customers have never had so much power. The rapid adoption of technologies, such as search engines, social media and smart mobile devices, has moved us from an information poor world to one that is information rich in less than two decades.

Access to immense amounts of information is having a dramatic impact on the way business is done. It is enabling customers to redesign traditional value chains, putting themselves at the centre. They are no longer passive consumers- they are active and vocal.

For enterprises this presents much more of an opportunity than a threat and has given rise to a service industry focusing on customer experience design. Becoming “customer-centric” is now the catch cry of leading brands. But how do brands move beyond the talk and undergo the transformation?

There needs to be a new wave of technology and digital experiences to take advantage of these emerging market forces. Businesses need to move beyond the usual “surveillance marketing” suspects consisting of CRM, Big-Data analytics and marketing automation tools. These will continue to play a part but a new generation of software designed for the benefit of the consumer and focused on developing mutually beneficial relationships is needed.

Businesses are undergoing a “big shift”. On the one hand social media and mobile technologies have ushered in a new and exciting era where consumers are looking for meaningful digital experiences and are flocking to innovations that give them control. On the other hand businesses are reeling from the effects of “digital Darwinism” and the aftermath of the global financial crisis. They are having to alter the way they engage with the markets they play in.

Businesses are investing in advertising software, big-data and digital marketing techniques in an effort to better understand their customers and generate demand. But customers are becoming increasing fatigued by marketing and wary of companies using their data. The result is that the gap between enterprises and their customers is widening – not closing.

Almost every day an article about consumer data appears in the mainstream press. Whether it’s the NSA looking at the personal communications of millions of people or businesses using big data analytics to design more effective marketing it seems that everyone is under surveillance.

Businesses need to find a new way to develop trust with their customers. Data analytics and “AdTech”, in their current form at least, will only erode trust as consumers feel increasingly spied upon.

Consumers want to see value from the relationships they have with brands. While there needs to be a wave of innovation to fully capitalise on this shift in consumer demand and behaviour you don’t need to wait for it to arrive. If your brand has a Facebook page, CRM or a loyalty system you have data that you can unlock.

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