It’s back to front, but the usual way of looking at digital disruption is to understand how it is affecting people and businesses.
One of the most powerful drivers that’s often overlooked is how people’s digital behaviour is forcing businesses to change – so it’s the other way around.
Customers are at the centre of every business so if their habits change, organisations must do the same.
Digital disruption, or transformation in its more positive form, is a ubiquitous topic and I suppose this blog is just adding to it by presenting another view.
But the point is, most commentary is looking at a wave of digital disruption arriving and its impact, including fear and concern about the challenges and changes ahead.
People are concerned about robots, artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and the future of their jobs. Not a week goes by without discussion about how digital technology is going to affect one profession or another.
However, those who are concerned are also the ones adopting different digital behaviours. Here we look at five ways people or customers’ behaviour is digitally disrupting business.
1. complex buying journeys abound
Let’s look first at how customers are buying.
Gone are the days when a company could cold call a prospect, talk about its product and nurture a person to a sale. This is a process that doesn’t usually work anymore.
Whether you are a consumer or a business customer the first port of call for any purchase is to go online and research. In fact, according to research by the Consumer Executive Board in B2B markets as much as 70% of the buying decision has been made even before talking to a salesperson.
This is a new dynamic driven by customers taking control of the buyers’ process.
Just as the digital revolution has transformed once-predictable consumer purchasing paths into a more circular pattern of touchpoints, so too business-to-business selling has become less linear as customers research, evaluate, select, and share experiences about products.
As McKinsey observed, digital has made consumers, both retail and business-to-business selling has become less linear. Customers research, evaluate, select, and share experiences about products. They then re-evaluate and finally, convert.
There are more people involved in the sales process now than in the past when it was bi-lateral between a company or product, and customers – and this complex sales path is driven by customers and their use of digital technology.
2. demand for better service and experience
Customer service has become the new sales with customer experience now playing a far more important role.
As a serial entrepreneur and author R.L. Adams puts it in Entrepreneur.com:
Clearly, for anyone who is serious about “making it,” so to speak, it’s imperative to realise the utter importance of rock-solid customer service. It’s not just about the customer always being right. It’s about treating your customers like you’d treat your family.
Service also means providing the same experience however a person engages with a company and there are now many more different ways to do this.
People may be looking at your website, reading your EDMs or social media or even talk to one of your salespeople on the phone – whatever the interaction there needs to be the same high-quality interaction.
Achieving this is being omnichannel where interaction with customers is seamless and mirrored in every way a customer engages with your organisation.
The growing ways people can interact with a business digitally is putting pressure on organisations to become more consistent.
Digital disruption has also created an environment where customers can be segmented very accurately.
Target markets used to be defined by age, gender, income level and social status, among other very general criteria.
These wide average definitions hide huge diversity, and if a business only targets average customers, opportunities are missed.
While businesses now have the ability to micro-segment, customers are also receiving communication and services that are highly targeted, relevant and valuable. So the more businesses do this, the more customers expect it.
In a world of micro-segmentation, this personalisation supports better customer service. The effect is constant changing parameters around how service is delivered to customers, and it’s all a result of digital disruption.
4. social media and the impact of customer feedback
Social media has given people a voice to express their views and opinions about any product, service or company. Warren Buffett once said:
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
Social media brings positive and negative feedback, and its prevalence in people’s lives has also changed the playing field for companies. Bad news travels fast and becomes viral.
People have become citizen journalists, commentators and influencers. Businesses that ignore this may become deaf to issues, miss unique opportunities to sell and delight customers and be unaware of fluctuations in sentiment.
There is now very little difference between the consumer and B2B buying approaches.
At home, people are used to researching everything, then buying. This is the same whether they buy in a store or online. So they now expect to take the same approach at work.
As McKinsey says, "the best response is to embrace the new environment" by encouraging sellers to meet customers at different points on their journeys, exploit digital tools more fully, allocate sales and marketing resources more successfully, and stimulate collaboration between these two functions.
It says doing this increases customer leads by up to 20 per cent, grows first-time customers by 10 per cent, and speeds up the time from qualifying a lead to closing a deal by as much as 20 per cent.
how to manage customers’ digital behaviour?
There are a number things businesses can do to turn the digital disruption resulting from customer behaviour into an opportunity.
Put bluntly, it’s a case of if you can’t beat them, join them.
Customer insight and strong marketing intelligence is key. Customer behaviour is changing constantly, and rapidly, so businesses need to do the same.
This can be achieved through the ongoing analysis of customers using digital analytics to assess how people are engaging with your business. This is essential research all businesses need to do and with available digital tools, it’s never been easier or more cost-effective.
Work with your customers to find out what they really want, which is no different to the past but now you can use digital tools to further analyse their behaviour and add value.
By doing this you can personalise your product and service as well as embellish the customer experience by providing service that is tailored to the individual.
If the speed and constant nature of change is intimidating to your business, it may be because of IT roadblocks such as legacy systems, or legacy thinking.
Addressing this through the adoption of cloud-based technology can change your company to being agile and flexible, and make the operation of a business, better, easier and faster.
For people, adopting digital technology makes life easier and convenient. It’s also simple to do.
It’s a different story for organisations where any change takes longer to initiate. This is one reason why recent research from Microsoft found that digital transformation is still in its infancy for most organisations in New Zealand.
We are in the midst of massive ongoing and irreversible digital change. Going back to “the good old days” is not an option so while these changes are usually called disruptive, they need to be viewed as an opportunity.
While the words digital disruption makes good headlines, we are all playing a role in this transformation. This means embracing it is the only option, instead of looking at it with worried eyes.
If you would like advice on turning your customer’s behaviour into an opportunity, let's have a chat.