Age of the Customer
What do we mean by the "Age of the Customer"? This term describes the latest in a series of changes shaping the business environment. The Production Age (1900 to 1960) was sustained by companies such as Boeing and Ford, the Information Age (1990 to 2010) favored organizations that controlled the flow of information, such as Google.
Around 2010, we entered the Age of the Customer. The widespread use of mobile devices, all connected to each other via the internet and social media, gives today's public unprecedented power. Most of us research a product and compare it with several alternatives before buying it, we have access to articles explaining how it is produced, we read reviews and reviews of other consumers, we look for the best option that combines quality, service and price.
Before this explosion of connectivity, the brand controlled most of the information about the offer, whether it was a product or a service. If we wanted to know the opinion of previous buyers, we would have to seek them out and ask them directly. An impossible task given the amount of time and costs involved.
The widespread use of the Internet means that we all have more or less equal access to consumers. Large corporations used to pay millions to produce advertising campaigns and buy airtime to market their products or services. Now, a small craft brewery can compete with a Heineken.
Interaction in social networks also allows quality to reach the top of the media agenda. If the product and service are good, the chances are that the public will recognize it and talk about it, leading to excellent marketing mouth-to-mouth and a recommendation effect. A large marketing budget is no longer necessary to promote a brand.
The computing power that allows today's public to control the market can also help brands reach new heights in customer service and response. Consumers are increasingly willing to share their data if it means better quality service. With the right tools, a marketing or sales team can have a complete, omnichannel customer database that is compatible with a multitude of devices and channels.
O omnichannel has become a priority. Customers today contact a brand through a variety of channels - smartphone, social media, chat, email - and will feel frustrated and annoyed if they have to repeat themselves frequently or wait too long for a response.
In a way, business has always involved building a relationship, and the Age of the Customer hasn't changed that. Most customers assume that it is absolutely critical to have a sales representative who acts as a trusted advisor. It's not about making a quick sale, but acting in a way that fosters customer loyalty by anticipating their needs and responding appropriately to them.
The emergence of big data makes it easier to set up this response for customers. Instead of launching the same strategy for everyone and "hoping for the best", brands can create marketing campaigns for each customer segment, or even for individual customers. It becomes possible to create personalized offers and study purchasing trends to determine what, where, when, why e as customers will make a decision.
The Age of the Customer presents itself as a major market disruptor, but the brands that are most agile and able to adapt to change may find themselves in a more advantageous position. Equipped with a vision for the future that makes use of technology-driven innovation to provide personalized responses, despite the uncertainty, success seems to be closer.