Over the next five years, the volume and pace of information will only accelerate. Most businesses aren’t thinking about their customers as both digital and physical entities, nor are they thinking about how much of the physical world will have a digital presence. But by 2020, much of the everyday world will be connected: 50-200 billion devices, 90 percent of automobiles, and 173 million wearables. The smart-home appliance industry alone will be worth $79 billion. Connecting to the customer will mean connecting to the various products each customer uses.

In the Age of the Customer, information and connections are rich and complex, and will require companies to rethink how they deliver customer apps. And it’s not just about the apps themselves: companies must deliver unmatched customer experiences along with every app, and they must do so in release cycles of weeks, not months.

There are five technology trends fueling the customer’s changing relationship with business:

  1. Cloud computing: Cloud-based platforms allow massive scalability and unmatched agility to quickly adapt to ever-changing business conditions
  2. Mobility: Customers are accessing information across devices when and where they need it
  3. Social: Social channels allow users to collaborate with an expanded network of friends, families, and business peers in ways that have fundamentally changed the relationships we have with our customers
  4. Data science: Companies are using intelligent analytics to not only predict customer behavior but also provide advice to customers’ personalized experiences
  5. Internet of Things: Customers will be connecting to companies through physical products

These trends are all changing how companies connect to their customers — and even who those customers are. With bots, for example, enterprises work with an virtual agent working on behalf of a customer instead of the customer directly. Those are the gatekeepers businesses will interact with in the near future. And companies will need to think of new strategies to reach those digital assistants.

The “Internet Minute”

In addition to explosive increase in connected relationships, the pace of interactions from these connected relationships has accelerated, carrying everything from personal exchanges to business decisions with it. Let’s consider for a moment the massive quantity of interactions that takes place in an “internet minute”—

In 60 seconds, there are a massive number of customers using Google searches to find out about products, launching service complaints via Twitter, creating new relationships on LinkedIn, or making purchases on Amazon or the App Store. Being connected to the customer in this world requires a company to quickly capitalize on new information in real time to provide superior customer experiences.

These trends are all changing how companies connect to their customers — and even who those customers are. With bots, for example, enterprises work with an virtual agent working on behalf of a customer instead of the customer directly. Those are the gatekeepers businesses will interact with in the near future. And companies will need to think of new strategies to reach those digital assistants.

Delivering Apps in a Connected World

For businesses, apps are the way to reach customers at “internet speed.” But the traditional app development process takes 6-12 months. That’s not acceptable anymore, for two reasons. First, companies can’t afford to wait a year; by then, the customers they’re trying to reach will already have shifted their loyalty or adopted entirely new purchasing habits. But there also just aren’t enough developers in the world to do everything businesses want to do: There are 10 million app developers on Earth, but we need five times that to satisfy global demand.

Businesses need to be able to deliver new processes faster than ever before. And the products themselves should be faster, too: a mobile app must deliver value to a user in 30-60 seconds.

A company then has about a minute — an internet minute — to reach its customers. The strength of a platform like App Cloud is in compressing the time it takes to develop an app, expanding the pool of developers with AppExchange, and building in the ability to change more efficiently. All of this fuels the success of the business by fueling the success of the customer.

We’re fascinated by how companies have deepened their customer interactions through Salesforce’s Customer Success Platform. In the video below, we look at who’s innovating with Salesforce tools: how New England BioLabs made a smarter refrigerator that monitors what it’s storing, and how Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews developed a more personal customer rewards program based on menu preferences, frequency of visits, and other specialized information.

Then, read on to learn how to connect business, customer, and product across any industry with our App Guide and Gallery.