Good news first: The economic outlook for 2014 looks promising. One data point: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sees stronger growth ahead in advanced and emerging economies alike – albeit with more risks for business.
After years struggling to hold down costs and keep the enterprise afloat, now the focus shifts to creating and nurturing your growth strategy. But as you formulate your strategy, stop to consider how to engage with your customers and prospects in order to grow your business and change the game to your advantage.
According to a recent McKinsey global survey, more top executives are making digital customer engagement a high strategic priority, yet many worry about underinvesting in such programs. They should be worried. As everyone knows, digital consumers are more informed than ever, always online, and inclined to leverage their social networks for buying advice and to share reviews – anytime, anywhere. The traditional means of approaching and interacting with these customers won’t work. Customers are in the driver’s seat and they know it.
Let’s face it. Customers have changed the rules of engagement. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these data points, predictions and observations:
- Smartphones rule the world. Don’t make a move without including a mobile angle – increasingly, smartphones are where the consumers live. A U.N. agency predicted that in 2014 there will be as many mobile phone subscriptions as there are people in the world, if not more. ABI Research predicted there were approximately 1.4 billion smartphones in use by the end of 2013. (source: Venturebeat)
- The sun is setting on the PC. Though dominant, smartphones aren’t the only mobile platform, of course. Tablets have taken hold, with tablet sales forecast to surpass sales of PCs/laptops. Tablets have also emerged as a critical engine for mobile commerce growth. According to IBM data tablets drove twice as much U.S. consumer retail spending on Black Friday as smartphones did.
- They clicked (and touched) to buy. Last year, total e-commerce grew 24% to $4.6 billion on Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving, according to Business Insider estimates. U.S. offline retail spending, meanwhile, was down (source: National Retail Federation). The mobile component of e-commerce, called mCommerce, (retail purchases made on tablets and smartphones instead of PCs) grew even faster. In fact, mobile commerce grew more than twice as quickly, at 63%, and accounted for nearly $940 million in sales on those three days.
And what’s happening in B2C is also changing the B2B world, as business buyers increasingly follow the patterns of and raise their expectations based on their personal B2C experiences. In this new world it is no longer about managing customer relationships: The paradigm has shifted to customer-managed relationships. (see Jamie Anderson’s article in SAPinsider)
The key to succeed in this environment is to glean insights that you can turn into action in real time to engage with digital consumers on their own terms. And this is where another key trend comes into play: Big data. In order to engage with customers 1:1, in context, and in the moment when it really matters (to them), you’ve got to be able to collect, monitor, and analyze huge volumes of data and you need to see your assets (such as customers, products and inventory) in real time, in motion, as they unfold, and leverage predictive analytics to turn this insight into action (see my blog on Big Data). Hence, it is no surprise that IDC projects greater than 30% compound annual growth rate in the worldwide big data technology market (IDC report).
To sum it up: In order to take advantage of the growth environment this year you need to figure out how to stay relevant to your customers and make it as convenient and delightful as possible for them to do business with you – and make sure you consistently deliver on your promises. To do so, you must invest in technology that can help you harness big data, social, and mobility all together. Customer interaction needs to be two-way, happening consistently, reliably, and across ever-proliferating channels – all at the same time, instantly.
The insights that will unlock growth for your business are there for the taking – it’s up to you to turn them into action.