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Combining the digital and personal wins
Combining the digital and personal wins

Four characteristics of modern consumers

Retailers require a mix of human services and new technologies to meet the needs of today’s demanding consumer. STEVEN VAN BELLEGHAM reports.

Consumer behaviour has changed substantially over the past decade, largely because of technologies that are providing new possibilities for fulfilling customer needs.

Mobile is undoubtedly the most important driver here, but technologies such as 3D printing and automation are also emerging as significant.

What would consumer expectations be in such a new world? Let’s consider four characteristics:

1. Personalised products and services

We are evolving towards a situation where everyone has their own services and products. One example of this is NRML in New York, a store that makes personalised earphones based on photos of the customer’s ears.

The personalised headphones are made on site by a 3D printer and are customised to fit exactly that person – the idea is brilliant!

We are entering into a phase of extreme personalisation in which people not only receive on-demand services – this has existed for some time now – but also on-demand products that are made when purchased.

2. Convenience as the new norm

Today everything has to be fast, easy and fun for the consumer. Uber, Airbnb, HelloFresh, and other innovative start-ups all have one thing in common: they’re fast and easy, as well as fun to use.

"Companies need to be good with data and user interfaces, and also with working out new ways to respond quickly to the needs of the modern customer"

Today, convenience is the basis of loyalty. If things don’t take place easily enough, they shut down quickly. We’re evolving towards a world of extreme simplicity.

Once upon a time, you almost needed an engineering degree to get a robot to start. Today, anyone can take a vacuum-cleaning robot out of the box and get it working with a single press of the button.

Companies that weren’t born in the digital world often have difficulty with this. Extreme simplicity is crucial for the modern consumer.

3. A demand for personal treatment

People love human sincerity and friendliness. It’s the most interesting paradox of the digital world: the more digital everything becomes, the more important the human interaction becomes once again.

Alas, businesses can’t program this into their products, nor can they buy software that delivers it; sincere human contact is something they have to train into their staff and deliver every day.

This is where genuine human skills come to the surface. Empathy, passion and creativity are too difficult for computers so this is the area where people can make the greatest difference.

This is also something that consumers find really important - seven in 10 consumers would like to have sincere human contact, even when digital channels are functioning perfectly.

4. The desire for awesome companies

Consumers love to buy from cool companies. This has always been the case but seems more important as technology becomes a larger part of our lives.

Tesla, Apple, Google and Coolblue are all examples of businesses that consumers love because they have cool values, a cool image and cool products. These companies go further than delivering a product; they generally have a vision that promises to change the world... and often it does.

Tesla isn’t a car company; it’s an energy company. Elon Musk is convinced that the Earth will be destroyed due to poor energy use, which is why he set up Tesla.

When he recently shared all of Tesla’s patents online with the rest of the world, it was because he found that things aren’t going quickly enough. He wants to save the world from wasteful energy consumption and he realised he can’t do that on his own.

Digital and human skills to combine

Of the four characteristics mentioned above, the first two are areas where businesses will still need to rely on digital technologies.

Personalised products and services, and the delivery of convenience as a norm, are both areas that have emerged because of technological advancements, rather than in spite of them.

This means companies need to be good with data and user interfaces, and also with working out new ways to respond quickly to the needs of the modern customer.

The last two characteristics – delivering a personal touch and being sufficiently cool enough to attract consumers – call for skills of a more human nature because they’re service oriented.

To stand out in these areas, retailers need to display a modern approach to PR HR and the right ambitious attitudes.

Steven Van Belleghem

Steven Van Belleghem provides coaching, workshops and advice about social media and conversation management. Learn More:

Ellendale Diamonds Australia

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