I took my daughter (a millennial) out to the shopping mall the other day and I must say, it was quite an experience to observe how different her generation approaches the market with very different expectations from the brands and products they consider.
With short attention span, spoilt with unlimited choices and more informed than I could ever have been, she revealed to me the characteristics of the 21st-century customer.
This got me thinking – can businesses still living in the 20th century even begin to comprehend the needs and desires of this 21st-century customer, let alone fulfill those?
Let’s for a minute look deeper into the customer’s behavior and expectation that we see demonstrated around us. In the last couple of years mobile app-based shopping, intuitive shopping lists and the ease of choosing the delivery time, payment methods with easy return policies have become common factors in customer satisfaction.
Today, Virtual Reality is replicating the touch and feel experience of shopping with “Payment with a selfie”, where the user verifies the transaction by taking a selfie – it is not just ‘cool technology’ – as my kids would call it- but part of a consorted effort being internalized by companies to give ease, speed and ownership to the customer. To be ahead of the competition, businesses try to not only adopt these but make these their exclusive differentiator; Amazon, by the way, is working on patenting ‘pay by selfie’.
Take the case of the most discerning of the lot – the fashion shopper. She would demand the latest clothing lines offered to her, much ahead of it hitting the stalls; she expects the brands to know her preferences in terms of color, style, size and price points – would want to try out the new designs in the fitting room, but only after she has shortlisted some on her smartphone and then she would expect the retailer to make necessary alterations on the dresses she picks, suggest matching accessories and deliver the lot to her in a different city – because she would be travelling!
This made me ponder on what would differentiate a 21st-century enterprise in such a fast evolving world. Here are five major aspects that I could identify as key:
Customer at the Centre: Enterprises have to be customer first driven and invest in building experiences that the customer would want to return to. It requires the use of multiple technologies at each curve and not just point solutions for specific outcomes. Mobile apps, for example, are a point solution, and more just table’s take today than a differentiator.
It is how the mobile app and the full customer experience end-to-end work that is important. In order to keep the shopper engaged, businesses need advanced customer analytics to analyze, segment, understand product preference and gain the ability to predict the next possible purchase by impacting the customer’s decision at the right point on the path to purchase.
They have to deploy tools to listen to the social conversations, build immersive interaction, embed advanced payment options and use encryptions to ensure secure and protected financial information. They would also need to connect the technology with ease to back-end systems for inventory availability, pick up, delivery, return etc.
Begin at the end: Enterprises have to strategize on what is the end goal and then work backward to weave in technologies, processes, and ways of working to deliver that outcome. This would require business innovation, process re-engineering and not just adoption of a technology. Thinking “Digitalization” opens up a totally new world of opportunities.
Making something old and substandard just a little better is not the answer. You really need to step back and re-imagine what is possible by finding the unmet human needs and then redo the full process to achieve the desired outcome.
Compete and collaborate: In order to deliver seamless and unique experiences, companies have to work together in the eco-system around their customers and suppliers. It does not take away competitiveness, it just redefines how to compete and build a differentiating edge.
Lean is in: Nimbleness is critical, size does not matter, attitude does- whoever said elephants can’t dance! Be start-up at heart, no matter what the age of your business is - be ready to experiment, rediscover and be agile enough to trapeze through the ever-evolving landscape. This goes for IT and the business as a whole.
Streamline decision making:Intuitions are good but they must be backed by insights. Enterprises need a holistic – big picture approach and roadmap, Getting to the right answer and outcomes is not just a quick sprint to get mobile, but rather a marathon of one sprint after the other, focused and guided toward the right vision and outcome. Being analytical in every decision is critical to see what is working, what needs change and quickly act in real-time serving the customer. Customers live in the “NOW”, so having barriers to a quick decision can be limiting, to say the least, companies need to act as they think – quickly!
And this brings me to the critical question – how do technologies partners, help businesses transition to a 21st-century enterprise? The five factors I listed above are core guiding principles in our offerings that focus on building 21st-century business models for our clients. For us, technology is a tool, attitude, and aptitude to deliver business outcome – our true north star!