Sunday, January 8, 2012

How Should We Educate our Current and Potential Customers?

I’m reminded of the quote from Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) who after building his first car is quoted as saying, “if I’d asked my customers what they wanted – they would have told me, a faster horse.”

This brilliant quote highlights a very real dilemma for many organisations whose products and services are influenced by key factors like technological growth or behavioural research – how do they keep their average customer up to date with the real potential that technological developments and other influential research topics offers them. And how do they help the customer differentiate between what’s real and what is disinformation.
Current developments in internet e-tailing, for example, are leading to a consumer revolution – yet many, especially from the ‘older’ generation, are simply unaware of the opportunities this market place offers and the speed of upcoming improvements linking android technology to e-tailing and payment portals.
Products and services that were once assumed to be ‘immune’ to the e-tailing network, like fashion and accessories are already rapidly changing the face of the e-tailing environment. It wasn’t that long ago that it was assumed that the customer would always want to ‘touch and feel’ fashion items, like clothes and shoes – and yet the sudden increase in on-line fashion sites – and the rapid increase in customers purchasing from this e-tailing environment is already proving these theorists wrong.
Yet as much as the divide between rich and poor is increasing in many countries, so is the gap between those who are e-tailing savvy and those who aren’t. It won’t surprise people that once one has eliminated those areas of the world that don’t have easy and fast Internet access – then the overriding demographic of the fashion e-tailor is age.
This new e-tailing generation are swayed by celebrities who are often the face of the sites. Cheryl Cole, for example, promotes an e-tailing shoe site, selling her own brand to thousands of fans around the world. This e-tailing generation are happy to buy a fashion item on-line if they know that it’s ‘worn’ (or been worn) by a celebrity or is a ‘brand’ they can trust and want to be seen in.
For the older generation this may be a ‘change’ too far – remembering a time when certain measurements were taken before buying clothes or shoes helping the customer choose the right size prior to purchase. And while this older generation may be asking for a ‘faster horse’ – the new generation of buyers have moved into a new retailing dimension that is changing the face of the market place.
As with many previous times in history, there will be those that won’t believe that a dramatic shift in retail patterns is taking place, hanging on to a distant past – maybe fearful or ignorant of the changing face of the world they live in. Yet one just has to walk around London, for example, to see the amount of vacant retail space, something that would have been unheard of not that long ago.
To ensure the optimal future growth, not just for organisations, but for communities and countries as well; we must ensure that those that have accumulated years of practical business skills, in respect of key business elements like strategic implementation, talent management, leadership development, M&A’s, market and behavioural analysis are formally linked with the modern e-tailing experts – sharing their knowledge and learning from each other.
Failure to do so will lead to a further gap developing between the modern e-tailing environment and the ‘standard business models’ - and will lead to a wider gap between the ‘educated’ e-shopper and those refusing to accept this new era.
As Henry Ford said, “it’s not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages.” So is it time for you to re-assess your business model and educate your customer in what is really possible in this new technological age?

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