The Shift In Doing Business In The 21st Century
How relevant is your business to your customers?
It’s a good question to ask but not too many businesses are asking it.
Consumers are now less interested in only buying and accumulating more products – their focus has shifted towards experiences, both in terms of the actual buying process & how well their chosen business responds to their needs.
21st Century consumers are far more sophisticated than their 20th Century counterparts & they have a wealth of sources from which to make their buying decisions from.
They are also far more demanding – they expect higher levels of service & are prepared to continue their search until a business can demonstrate their relevance to them.
Futurist Chris Riddell, states, “We’re now in an era of consumer experiences, we don’t want to buy stuff anymore,” Riddell said, adding that instant gratification and on-demand products and services are now the name of the game.
It’s no longer a case of the business owner asking, “How can we sell them (customers) more?” The question has to be, “How cqn we serve them more?”
The bottom line is this – unless you are making your business relevant to customers, they are looking elsewhere. But what does “Being relevant” look like?
Here’s a couple of examples:
An Australian household goods retail chain, “The Good Guys”, recently launched an online platform which allows customers, once they have made a purchase, to sign-on, pick a contractor in their area (based on price and ratings), and book in a time for installation of whatever they have bought – be it a dishwasher, air conditioner or entertainment system. The job details are then sent to both the contractor and the customer via an app on which they can contact each other.
Then there is Styr labs (Styr.com) in the USA, a nutritional supplements company, that has developed wearable technology which informs their customers (who opt to wear the tech) the sorts of supplements they are likely to need based on their (daily) activities.
Both are examples of businesses asking themselves the question, “How can we become more relevant to our customers?” These businesses are having “ah-ha” moments and opting to acquire or partner with newer businesses and startups in a bid to sell experiences & add value to the relationship as a result.
Local businesses have an opportunity here to get out in front of large corporates by making the most of what they know about their customers to create more meaningful customer experiences.
Take the case of a local jewelry business in Turkey, TasarimTakarim, that has developed an online platform through Etsy(.com) where customers can provide electronic (scanned) copies of their children’s school artwork which they email through. The business then turns these drawings into unique pieces of jewelry.
Then there’s Eagle Boys Pizza – this business has developed an online ordering system that allows customers to “Design their own” pizza. What’s more, customers can publish their “Designer” pizza &, if it sells well, the business gives them a slice of the profits!
Advances in technology have not just brought with it an explosion in consumer choice, but also an explosion in access to customer data – if the business is astute enough to know what questions to ask – & the cost of acquiring this information is now well within the confines of local business budgets.
Despite a perception amongst local business owners to the contrary, the local business actually has an advantage over their corporate counterparts because the decision makers in the business are often much closer to the customer than management in the corporate world are.
This makes decision making processes much quicker – & in today’s fast paced world that is a distinct advantage.
Chris Riddell explains, “Local business owners, your opportunity to engage people at any time of the day has never been higher,”
“Social media now allows you to get right to them at any point in their day. You don’t have to pay and spray advertising on local media anymore and not know whether you’re reaching people or not”.
However, this is not a “One size fits all” environment. Customers want to be catered to specifically – not as some imagined homogenised group. Messages have to be crafted and curated to personalise experiences. You cannot simply put the same content across all devices & platforms.
This is also a “Two way” environment – you have to know as much about them as they know about you. This means that in order to craft these personalised experiences, business owners need to collect and use the riches of data available to them about their customers.
While the data within an organisation may come from its sales or customer database, Riddell says the employees and clients of a business are also a valuable source of data.
In this new world, the future of any business will be largely defined by what it knows about its customers. The success of the business will depend on how well that knowledge is applied.
In order to remain relevant to customers you have to be prepared to challenge your relevancy every single day. You have to be able to think differently & to be prepared to reinvent yourself & the business.
What worked for you last year is not likely to be as successful this year, as your customers come to expect more & your competitors follow your lead.
Welcome to the 21st Century!
Dennis is a “Digital Nomad” with an MBA in Marketing Management & has been involved in the online environment for over 15 years. He helps local businesses develop sustainable online marketing programs by applying a strategic focus to laser target what a business needs to be doing & when. He can be contacted at www.communicationcommando.com