Are you feeling particularly empowered as a customer or consumer these days? You should! The evolution of technology over the last five decades has fundamentally shifted the position of the customer as we move into a decade of social business. It is no longer about B2B or B2C or B2B2C; it is about a company’s relationship with you as a person. What drove this shift? Technology. And sometimes we have to step back to see how dramatic the change has been, in order to see how dramatic our future will be.
“The Good Old Days”
Before we had access to modern technologies, it was a challenge for the customer, consumers – the buyer – to engage with companies that weren’t convenient to them. For many, this was dealing with those within your local geography or those you had access to. This put the buyer at the behest of the seller. As time went on, there was greater focus on margins and the pressure was felt by the buyer. (If you are a fan of movies, every dystopian movie of the 1970s featured “the evil corporation.” There was a real sense of being powerless against large enterprises.) However, as technology spread – in the form of PCs, then the Internet, then mobile devices, then smartphones – buyers, customers, and consumers felt more empowered to deal with companies and corporations of their choosing. With social media, the last few years have seen a tremendous change in how customers can now openly review and engage with companies, provide insight into products and services, negotiate prices with greater effectiveness, and have insights at their fingertips that were previously only held by a select few.
The Decade of Social Business
The next few years will see a further acceleration of the change in buying power of the customer. Social media is just the first step to this broader change. What are just tools today will be a more fully integrated experience of allowing the buyer the experience they want – how they want it, when they want it, where they want it – and under which terms they are willing to engage with you as a company or seller. This goes beyond tweeting a service request or using a community to answer support questions or Yelp to read a review on a company’s track record. These are mere tactics. It is about a fully engaged experience of always-on, rich data at your fingertips to help make decisions against all aspects of a company and have a more powerful voice to alter and influence the company’s trajectory.
This is Not All One-Sided
This may sound like a power shift toward the buyer, now leaving the seller or company vulnerable. This is true – for some. Some organizations will be slow to adapt – and in true Darwinian fashion – will be marginalized. However, companies that see this shift – and see it now – begin to see the buyer, the customer as an advocate for the marketplace. This change allows companies to have greater insights into what the marketplace really wants – what its customers are really looking to purchase and how they want to be engaged. It is a game-changer. And like all evolutions/revolutions, some will thrive and some will die off.
So, over the next few years, make your business social, think about the true voice of the customer, and empathize with their needs. Or, consider the ever-shrinking alternatives.
The Infographic was created by Emily Kesselman at Feathered Hat Studios.