Has the Fourth Industrial Revolution meant we’re ignoring our customers?
The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is upon us. New technology like the Internet of Things and programmatic have caused a change for marketers and every business has a heavy focus on digital. This technological uptake seems to have replaced the human element marketers have historically used to approach customers.
Have we started to ignore our customers by being so focused on technology and the digital experience?
Bear with me. I am not trying to be a Luddite but many current marketing and trade practices mirror how we have interacted as humans over a long period of time. We used to trade with our neighbours and then exploration expanded our reach. We ramped up production to meet demand and demand rose as the population grew, affluence increased and access to customers changed. Soon commoditisation and capitalism bred and we saw the rise of competition with several traders offering similar goods. This meant your reputation was paramount.
The human and emotive evolution is unchanged. Businesses still rely on awareness, reputation and word of mouth. This will remain static even in the face of changing technology. The technology is not what is popular; it is what it allows you to do. Social lets you keep in touch with friends and share experiences on a mass scale. The technology has refined and sped up our ability to connect.
The pace of change is slow and deliberate with many businesses following their competitor’s lead. No one wants to put their head above the parapet for fear of a backlash. A backlash, which could be potentially devastating under today’s circumstances, due to social media’s reach, which is word of mouth on steroids. Industries like the public sector don’t know what the positive outcome of digital transformation would be. It is unlikely that drones will be delivering your passport anytime soon. More’s the pity.
Still, humans need to feel valued. We are crying out for businesses to talk to us at an individual level but customers still get the same content. It’s not the tools that should be shaping the landscape but the people.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution requires a change in thinking. It’s time to start thinking about the customers and what they want rather than what technology will reach ‘them’ the fastest, at the most efficient rate or in the coolest way.
The method isn’t terrifying but the scale is but, as Douglas Adams writes, “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.” These consumers are a growing number of the population that expect relevancy and will buy from organisations that speak to them. It’s time to dig your heels into those, who believe that “anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
Who are ‘they’ anyway?