The consumer-centric company
We have always been a society of networks.
From railroads to the telegraph networks that sprang up across the United States, from the wiring up of cities to receive electricity to the development of telephone networks, from the broadcast networks of radio and television to the world-wide web, networks have always been at the heart of human development. These networks were built to transport people and goods from place to place, to communicate across long distances, and to transmit vast amounts of information. The evolution of these networks has always been about making easier for people to get closer.
Control of networks have also evolved, from hub and spoke systems with a central point of control, to decentralized control emanating from secondary points within the system. This liberalization of control has reached a new point, where individuals exert substantial power, and even have the ability to use the network to broadcast their own thoughts and creations. User-generated content is a new and powerful force, responsible for films on YouTube, music on MySpace, and all the links and comments and content on Facebook and Twitter.
Today we are in the middle of a quiet revolution, as a new network is being built based on the convergence of social networks, the internet and mobile technology. Each individual is a node, connected to others by technology, mapping his or her own network of familial and personal relationship, making new ones by being a part of online communities, existing in the real world, but casting a long data shadow into the internet.
These new digital natives are driving the development of ever more sophisticated applications and technology, and demanding more and more bandwidth. They are also changing the customer experience, and altered marketing behaviour. Consumers have a larger and louder voice than ever before. Old methods and techniques may not work as well, and what is needed is an approach tailored to the new network.
Unlike other industries, the mobile ecosystem is unique in several respects. One of them is that the entire supply chain can be operated in a single location – the raw material being radio spectrum, a limited resource allocated by auction by regulators – but which in turn is acted upon by consumers individually. While their behaviour may take effect en masse, each individual consumer may be treated as a separate node in the network, and information (including marketing material and other inventory) can be directed to the individual.
Standard broadcast techniques have a scattershot approach – shoot out the material to as many people as possible, and hope that it sticks. The opposite approach may work better with consumers: permission-based marketing offers consumers a chance to opt-in to marketing programmes, in return for advance notice of events, discounts, coupons and other special treatment. In this case, consumers’ perceptions shift – they accept delivery of valuable marketing information, and each consumer is only sent whatever information they indicate they desire. Marketing then becomes personal, and personalized.
This is an evolutionary response to the rise of the personal mobile device. As marketing becomes more focused on the consumer, companies will learn to become consumer centric. Companies that succeed will be those that listen to the voice of their consumers, and work with them to deliver the products and services that they are clamouring for. Getting consumers to understand the vision and mission of a company can help to personalize it, as well as letting consumers feel as though they are an important part of the process.