Digital Consumer, the New Super Man
The Oxford Dictionary in 2013 included the term digital detox and defined it as “a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computer”. What is ironical is that they added the term to their online version accessible only on digital devices. Today, when the digital revolution is driving our lives like never before, mobile devices, most prominently, are revolutionizing every aspect of the consumer shopping experience.
Till some years back, if we wanted to buy a pair of Nike shoes, the only option was to go to a Nike retail store and buy the pair best fitting our requirements and budget. Today, we have a plethora of choices. We have a million online stores and sites, which offer a sea of brands at attractive prices with discounts and deals -- all up for grabs. What’s more, these products are delivered free to our doorsteps with just a click of the mouse. This tsunami of information available at our finger tips through myriad channels has turned the consumer into the new superman. She/he completely wields the power at every step – from browsing the entire set of products to choosing what is most relevant; from checking for competitive prices to preferred brands.
Even the payment method has multiple choices - making it an out-and-out convenient, comfortable, enjoyable and relaxing shopping experience.
Digital technologies make it impossible for us to avoid or even ignore the digital culture and life. Reports suggest that people in the age group of 8 to 18 spend more than eight hours every day on social media – making mobile devices the most popular way to understand and identify potential purchases. Further, online shopping allows marketers a chance to be with the consumer throughout his shopping experience from start to finish. As online websites are in a huddle to lure customers, consumers have truly become the adored kings and queens of anytime, anywhere shopping.
Digitalization has not only impacted our lives but even the way organizations operate and conduct businesses. Corporate giants such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are leading the change. And challengers such as Uber (shared taxi service), Tesla (electric cars), Airbnb (rental accommodation across countries), Zipcar (car sharing alternative to rental cars), Chegg (online textbook rentals, homework help, scholarships, course and internship reviews) are disrupting industries while giving consumers the maximum power to pick and choose.
However, not all industries and businesses anticipated the digital wave and many have fallen by the wayside or lost this race to digital greatness.
- Video rental Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 as Netflix and Redbox entered the market with digital video streaming
- Instant photo camera company, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2001 bowing out to digital photography
- The yesteryear icon, Kodak films filed bankruptcy in 2012 as the world moved towards digital imaging
- U.S.-based book store Borders went out of business in 2011 due to the phenomenal rise in eBooks
- Britannica - the world’s oldest English Encyclopedia stopped their print edition in 2010 after 244 years due to competition from Wikipedia
Companies are making efforts to meet the consumer at the ‘zero moment of truth’ – the moment when people take an interest in a brand/product while viewing it online and the impression they get from all online touch points of the brand/product. This first impression is a key factor in influencing the first moment of truth, which is choosing a particular brand.
Customer relations, too, have changed radically in the digital era. With the ubiquity of the Internet, social media and mobile devices, the relationship has become more personal and customized. Consumers now expect the same treatment from brands that they received from their neighborhood stores. Consumers expect you to remember who they are, their preferences, customized online shopping experience, expert advice, recommendations and outstanding service.
Vehicle navigation GPS system, fitness monitors, wearable devices, beacons, Internet of Things, connected homes, smart watches, smartphones, gaming, eBooks – et al is merging our real and digital lives making them interwoven and indistinguishable. The digital revolution is only going to grow bigger and better - giving consumer’s enormous power to choose from the loads of options available on a variety of channels.
As aspirations, desires and demands of today’s tech-savvy consumers continue to rise, technologies need to keep pace and continually evolve. The empowerment of digital consumers mean providers, too, must go the extra mile to create niche products that engage and build lasting relationships.
Sandeep Raut was the Director of Digital One at Atos Syntel. He is an avid blogger with a focus on big data analytics.