It will not be an understatement to say that we live in a multi-screen, multi-function and multi-device world. Digital has permeated every aspect of our lives and, mind you, this isn’t just a fad. Every customer in today’s time and era is hyper-connected, keeping in mind the vast array of products, services and platforms at their fingertips. On a small side-note (and I’m playing the Devil’s advocate here), this has both a positive and a less positive implication. The positive result is that every consumer has a myriad of choices before them. Simply put; multiple choices imply that organizing one’s life is far easier than before.
At this point, I think it will be interesting to look at the scale of connectivity in the world we live in. According to a global survey carried out by Accenture, 37 per cent of customers now own a combination of smartphones, laptops, desktops and tablets. Social networks influence 74 per cent of consumers’ purchasing decisions (source: Simply Measured). 71 per cent of internet users are more likely to purchase from a brand that they are following on a social networking site, such as Twitter or Facebook (source: CMO Council). Now, do remember that with the world and its neighbour going digital, these new technologies and platforms have changed the way consumers interact with brands and vice versa. Let’s take a quick look at the motive behind consumers going digital, as elaborated by AT Kearney:
So, what’s next for the hyper-connected customer? Well, a number of things, now that you mention it. First up is augmented reality. While this may sound straight out of a science fiction movie, it is fast becoming a reality (excuse the pun) today. No longer considered a gimmicky tool, the who’s who of the branding world is jumping onto this bandwagon.
Why? Well, simply put, because it offers the power to literally reshape how brands talk to each other and, of course, their customers. As an added bonus, it enables these brands to monitor and track customer engagement.
So, why is this suddenly in the spotlight? Well, the concept itself isn’t new-it dates back to the 1960s in fact-but the phenomenal success of the mobile handset has changed its fortunes, so to speak. Simply put, the mobile phone has changed our world-right from how we socialise with our peers to the way we play games and shop. Imagine an application developer introducing augmented reality into the mix (i.e. on the smartphone, tablet or wearable device). The result is customers being able to scan and identify a product and transform it into a marketing touch-point such as a game, cartoon, recipe book or even song list.
Now, this next bit is for the brands themselves. While all this sounds like the market is bursting at the seams with lucrative opportunities, let’s not paint an overly rosy picture. The truth of the matter is that the customer is fickle-they will not hesitate to switch operators or brands if they aren’t fully satisfied by the product or service. In short, the norm is simple-every brand gets just one shot at capturing the customer’s attention. They simply will not get a second chance to make a good impression.
So, what is a brand to do? Well, for starters, keep their ear to the ground, with regard to the ongoing and possible future market trends. For example, Idea for Leaders and Marketo believe that brands ought to provide a participative experience for customers. The logic is simple-today’s customers enjoy and, in fact, seek exciting, created, curated, connected and a community-like feeling. The idea, therefore, is not just selling one’s products but engaging with the customer as well.
To sum up, technology has changed every aspect of everyday life-from the way we shop to the food we eat. On an interesting note, industry experts are of the firm belief that while today’s customers are almost always connected, the customer of the future will always be connected, as digital technologies become wearable and may even be implanted in the customer’s body! Too far fetched? Well, at the rate technology is progressing at, maybe not. Time will tell.