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“Empowered customers are disrupting every industry, ushering in a 20-year business cycle Forrester calls ‘the age of the customer’,” Forrester CEO George Colony told the LeWeb audience in Paris.
According to Colony, this 20-year business cycle will see “successful businesses will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers”.
Companies will have to substantially increase investment in mobile, big data, great customer experience, and disruptive business models to win and retain customers.
He reckons that the average customer is more informed and more empowered than ever before and companies need to adapt to that.
Though companies may argue that they have always been “customer-centric,” this is different, says Colony. It is not about “customer-centric” thinking or “the customer is always right.” This is about the new power of customers, which means that a focus on the customer now matters more than any other strategic imperative.
Pricing, sharing and everywhere
Colony says that because the new customer is better informed, they can share critiques — the power of the web and social. Now everything can be shared about a customer’s experience within seconds of that experience.
The new customer can buy from anyone and anywhere with around 22% of European ordering products of sites based outside of their own countries. The new customer also finds the best and accurate prices for a product.
He also notes some major difference between generations Y and X.
Compared to Gen X, Gen Y: watches 21% less TV, listens to 27% less radio, plays 319% more video games spends, 24% more time on the internet and spend 158% less time on newspapers. He says that Gen Z will bring more changes to the table as well.
The mobile mind shift
“Your customers expect any information or service they desire be available to them on any device, in context, at their moment of need,” says Colony.
The mobile mind shift is not on its way, it’s happening. He argues that in the future companies must put themselves into the pockets of their customers in order to get their attention and deliver great service. For Colony, we are headed to an age where the web will become the AM radio of the internet, available but not the primary service, he reckons the majority of businesses will engage customers via their mobile devices.
Though we are still a while from that he reckons we are coming along nicely. However it seems Windows Phone users are trailing behind when it comes to this mobile mind shift, with iPhone users already there. He notes that Asia-Pacific regions have the most mind-shifted customers.
The Forrester boss plays out the scenario where he can pay for his taxi ride via his phone as well tip the driver. His phone can tell him which airport terminal and gate he needs to catch his flight and show him his seat and offer him his favourite drink. The same device can then tell the elevator which floor to go to when he arrives at his hotel, as well as opened his hotel door for him.
Colony posses a question of how? Easy it seems, mix sensor information from your device, with social recommendations, to interaction with other smart products. It’s a case of becoming systems of record with customer information which will become systems of engagement. Companies need to provide real-time services or predictive services. He reckons that with geo-location and payment services that can feed into a big customer data repository, this can be done.
Why do it? To make money of course. After all, in the “future all companies will be software companies”.