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The Age of the Customer and why platforms could help avoid commoditisation

Posted by Ayanda Khuzwayo on 20 February 2019 12:25 PM SAST

Blog 2 in the Platform series. Your customer of days past was in the dark. If they purchased an item, they had no idea what the profit margin may be. Endeavours to understand where the best price may be was an onerous task. Consumer responses to new and more competitive products were not broadly available.

But today, the customer's ability to quickly access information is possibly the disruptor of the day. Power has shifted. Prior to the age of the customer, the vendor held the power. This is no longer the case.

The paradigm shift has breed a new kind of customer, who is confident to negotiate. Today’s customer has the voice, the platform and access to information. The marketing days of mass consumer messaging are also over and new strategies such as inbound marketing, social media, and content marketing require a renewed energy.

The silo-driven world that saw sales department autonomy is over.  They are working more closely with information technology (IT) departments to get better information about their existing customer base and using data to nurture leads and customer retention efforts. And as for customer service, a new level of skill is required as they deal with an informed consumer, who may be contacting the company through a broad variety of channels, including social media and live chat. The proliferation of these communication channels has placed new burdens on customer service departments to respond to consumer communications quickly and maintain an integrated view of communication channels. 

The Age of the Customer is a great market disruptor, but companies that are agile and alert will adapt to the changes and come out better than before. Companies have more customer data than ever before, some big data and much of it, small data, that is gathered through customer communities and forums, that tracks engagement, passion for the product and service, transitions into free R&D and customer support.

Those companies noted above, understand the value of customer communities and platform technology, where customer engagement is not all hinged on CRM and smart algorithms, where customers can engage in a virtual space at levels of interest and advocacy, where product developers can start real conversations with passionate customers and get real-time pre-BETA stage inputs. Today there is the greatest chance of strong brands leaning towards commoditization or alternatively, creating lifelong brand advocates.

Janice Scheckter is MD of Indigo New Media, where we understand the age of the customer.

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