We are currently in the era of digital disruption. It is comparable to other great periods of social transformation, such as the Industrial Revolution and prior to that, the emancipation of knowledge catalysed by the printing press.
In each period, the status quo was blown out of the water and a new order established.
Once In A Lifetime
In today’s version, it is the ongoing integration of technologies that is tipping the balance and causing a changing of the guard. And as with all truly impactful transformations it affects all. In our case that includes brand and customer, brand and employee, B2C and B2B. Across every type of market, public or private and every geography.
Put simply, a digital world changes the way we work and live. It compresses, accelerates and scales how events take place. It enriches, connects and enables entirely new ways of doing things. Running through the centre of any of these new scenarios are the themes of connectivity and real time information.
For sure BYOD (bring your own device) is extra complexity and an unwelcome new reality for CIOs to manage. But it reflects the fact that the world can now carry the world in its pocket. This mass consumer empowerment was perfectly channelled during the Jobs era of Apple domination catalysing the world wide distribution of post pc technology.
Others have now caught up and both smartphones and tablets are currently in the classic phase of getting cheaper and better over ever shortening cycles of intensive competition. The connected customer has arrived. Hence we now have a world of omni-channel retailing, social customer service, multi- device ownership, showrooming and real time personalisation.
And that’s before our cars and white goods start checking themselves in for a service before we even recognise the symptoms.
New Behaviours: New Responses
The new generation of customer is autonomous and expects brands to support that behaviour.
Much digital ink has already been spilt exploring other associated changes in consumer behaviour. We know that brand trust has declined. Instead we favour the views of family, friends and authentic online reviews.
We know that reliance on brands for information has equally weakened. Customers help other customers across the lifecycle. From awareness to support. In some respects the brand now acts as tier 3 support. Involved only when it gets complicated.
In response, brands are redefining their value from simple information gatekeepers to entertainers, impresarios, experience generators and custodians of knowing what switches your lights on. They need to in order to stay relevant.
Just go visit any recently refurbished flagship stores to witness this change of emphasis first hand. Think about what Angela Ahrendts meant when she said that there is no distinction between offline and online. Her stores mirror the design of Burberry’s online properties.
One of the best places to test the zeitgeist is Linkedin nomenclature. A few years ago there were many plenty proud enough to describe themselves as ‘Customer Service’ Directors. Today they are a diminishing breed. All hail the ‘Customer Experience’ Director instead. Whether cosmetic or catalytic, they way we name ourselves reflect the changing emphasis in what matters to business and personal success.
This buying behaviour and corresponding new style courtship from brands is not a pure retail phenomena. Far from it. B2B is impacted just as radically. Although the purchase process appears more objective and formal with all the RFIs and RFPs flying around, the behavioural economics insight that we are basically irrational in our decision making holds true. People buy from people. That’s why so much golf still gets played in B2B!
But certain buye [...]