Markets have always been places where two opposite forces meet and face: the seller and the buyer. For centuries the power balance has basically been a matter of production and distribution.
In this scenario the seller was the strong element, with control of prices, point of sales location, and information about products and clients. The only thing people could control was the buying decision, influenced by brands and companies. Now things are quite different, as we have entered the Age of the Customer.
Over the last couple of years analysts have been talking about this new era for businesses, but what exactly is the Age of the Customer? How does it change the marketplace and what companies should do to get ready and adapt? Let's start by saying that products and services are still controlled by the seller and the buying decision is still in the hands of the buyer. What has shifted is the information: thanks to the internet and mobile revolution, the information is now easily available without being controlled and overseen by the seller.
This revolution has two main consequences:
- Clients are more and more empowered and connected.
- Companies struggle to deal with clients and to engage them.
The dynamics of the markets and the speed needed to remain competitive have deeply changed. Today there's no market without mobile, big data, digital transformation and digital customer experience. Empowered customers can choose from a potentially infinite set of suppliers so, if you want to connect with them and be their first choice, you must become obsessed by them. Customers demand new levels of engagement and connection.
There's a new paradigm for marketers, built on 3 imperatives:
- Mobile mind shift: our lives have become a collection of mobile moments, influenced by smartphones and other personal digital devices (i.e. wearable technology such as Apple Watch and Google Glass). Mobile is not just an add-on: you need to reach your customers mobile-first. "I want to get what I want anytime, anywhere, easy and my own way."
- Digital customer experience: add value to your brand and product and stay true to your positioning while connecting with clients in new ways. Map your customers' digital journey to understand how they relate to your brand, create innovative storytelling, engage them with a gamification strategy.
- Big data: thanks to the cloud and high-performance computing, companies are able to collect and analyze huge amount of information in real-time, but they're not always able to step from numbers to strategies. There are so many customers and touchpoints that marketers often feel overwhelmed. The solution? Big data, turned into useful insights to build buyer personas and shape your digital strategy.
Digital customers expect that you are able to anticipate their needs and answer every time they need and everywhere they are. Tricky but also full of opportunities: you 'just' need to put the digital customer experience at the very heart of your marketing and business strategy, invest in real-time data and content creation, finally shifting from traditional in-store sales funnel to an always connected mobile-first point of view.