Think back to fifteen or even ten years ago and considered how relatively disconnected everything was. Furthermore, consider the relationships (or lack of relationships) people had with businesses back then. They weren’t even remotely as notable, and there was a greater divide between the daily lives of consumers and the brands they use in their lives.
Now things are a bit different. People are regularly following brands on Snapchat and the proliferation content marketing has blurred the line between commercials and informational content. Ads are seeping into our lives in new and creative ways as consumers ignore previous methods faster than ever. All these effects have been brought about by technology and the greater degrees of connectivity developed over the last decade and continuing development today.
Here are a few ways we can expect the online environment and the customer-business relationship to change over the next few years. At the very least, these are the trends to watch one way or another, as they’ll be indicative of the future of online business.
More Centralized Products and Services
From Amazon to Google to other platforms, we are seeing many companies attempt to handle a wider variety of sectors and then integrating them with each other to create a full experience. The ultimate goal is likely to remove the need for people to use different businesses entirely, keeping a customer on a single platform for all their needs.
From a physical product and device perspective, we’re already seeing this with smartphones. Cameras aren’t necessary for most people anymore with what’s available on smartphones. There’s an app that works for everyone else. Experiments in Google Pay and similar services are progressing and will likely become the norm in a few years, making payments even easier (perhaps to the detriment of the impulsive consumer). Simply put, more companies are seeking greater market domination than before, and they have the capability to do so.
It’s quite possible we will see a future where the customer only uses a few businesses for everything in their life, vesting changing the way the relationship is viewed by both parties. A lost customer will be a greater profit loss for businesses, and changing services will be more of a hassle due to centralization and a more important decision for the customer.
A More Personalized Experience
You’re probably already aware of this through the personized ads and product recommendations you get (often regardless of what site you happen to be on). Through data collection, businesses (especially large ones with the capabilities to maximize on big data) can target the consumers they want, as opposed to a wide audience. Organizations, at the end of the day and in most cases, are seeking to maximize conversions, not views.
On the consumer side of things, that means you will be more likely to see ads tailored to your exact wants, needs, and interests. While this might be a good thing to some, eventually we will see businesses continue to try and push the lines and get more personal, likely to the point of discomfort for many consumers. An important part of where the business-consumer relationship in the future is where that line will be drawn.
Social Media Relationships and Experience
As mentioned before, the proliferation of brand accounts on social media is an expected trend that most of us didn’t think would to be as successful as it has been. Millions of people follow companies with their Twitter accounts either freely or with the enticement of special offers or contests, providing effectively a free direct line to consumers.
The main takeaway from this is that technology, and more specifically our use of it, has plugged us into brands for nearly every waking hour for some of us, consider the average screen time of a U.S. adult (about 11 hours a day). And marketers will see every second of that time as an opportunity to develop a relationship with the consumer.
Investing and Demonstrations Will Change as Well
There’s more to the customer-business relationship than what you might experience. Many people will try additional demos as programs allow product tryouts and simulations more often. Questions can be more easily researched and answered.
On the investment and investment relations half of this equation, the pitches you might see on Shark Tank might instead happen online more often, especially the services and products involved are based online. Technology has made investment and pre-ordering easier than ever, contributing to the growth of niche markets.
Alternately, we are seeing a greater use of services such as Kickstarter and Patreon to fund products, and while many of them currently fail to deliver according to expectations, we might see larger businesses adopting these types of models, allowing customers to have greater control over the products they want. “The customer is always right” will become something far more literal in the coming years, because the customer has already ordered what they want.
Too often might we look at new inventions and technological advancements without looking at their overall effects on the population and consumers. There is a greater trend towards a more personalized relationship, and it will be interesting to see whether people will embrace it or whether we will see backlash and adjustments.
Where do you see this relationship headed? Are you alarmed or excited about changing trends? We encourage you to share this post on social media to discuss it with your colleagues and friends. We would also love to hear your thoughts on Gizmocrazed’s social media pages, so please comment there as well.