People Make the World Go Around!
"Choice" is a powerful word. Disruptive technologies like the Internet and mobile and wireless technologies are giving choice to customers. Customers can get almost everything globally with competitive pricing and bids from the comfort of their home. For example, customers can get insurance information, shop for insurance, compare prices, and buy insurance in a few hours, sitting in front of a Web-enabled device. The device can be a terminal or other smart device.
Information is power. Multidimensional information flow and communication have given customers what they really wantchoice. Powerful communities-of-interests are creating Web lobbies for products and services. Real-time prices, auctioning, and the power of information have enabled customers to use the Web as a vehicle to create communities with common interests. There are now multidirectional communication and information flows between product and service providers and customers. These benefit both buyers and sellers.
In the words of John McCarthy, Group Director of New Media Research at Forrester, "dynamic trade . . . [is] leveraging technology to satisfy current demand with customized response."5
Companies are getting powerful demographic and behavioral information in real time; at the same time, customers are influencing companies to provide quality, products, and services at the right time. The definition of quality has gained more dimension also. It incorporates traditional quality, speed, interconnectivity, and community experience on top of core products and services. (See Figure 18.)
Figure 1-8 People drivers
Industrial economies were built on the mass production business model. Companies built products and "pushed" those products using one-way communication (advertising and mass media) to markets. Enabled by the totally interactive medium of the Internet, consumers can now "pull" the information they want about products and reach out to all sources instantly. This information is power, and it fulfills one of the tenets of pure competition, a fully informed consumer. "Fully informed" means having access to information from other consumers as well as information about the products themselves. What we see happening now is the slow change from the economic model of "economy of scale" to "economy of focus."
The Internet Experience
The Internet is allowing a different paradigm of mass production called mass customization, creating a world where real-time demand drives real-time production. It is not only allowing an enriched customer experience via real-time video, audio, and graphics, but also profiling customers intelligently and creating customization on a one-on-one level. Buyers are given assistance in decision-making, from loan calculations to comparative pricing and a multitude of options, which can be used by the customer to come to a decision. Payment processing has become quite efficient and secure. Back-end order processing and delivery are also improving in quality and speed.
However, it is not just trade. Chat sessions, billboards, and Web meetings are generating a very engaging Internet experience. Formal and informal meetings are being conducted and are becoming popular. Teenagers are hooked on AOL chat sessions. Mobile, set-top boxes, wireless, and voice over IP (VoIP) have started to add to the Internet experience. As it stands today, the Internet experience can be encapsulated in three sets of coordinates (see Figure 19):
- Mass customization
Figure 1-8 The Internet experience
The concept of mass customization has been there for a while, but the Internet is helping materialize the concept. Organizations can analyze the buying behavior of individual customers by tracking their electronic interactions and produce the right marketing messages, products, and services necessary for these customers. The intelligent Internet can keep all the customer information, update it, and depending on the buyer's demographics, psychographics, or any other model used to analyze the customer, deliver the right solution to him or her. This will lead to not just owning the customer for a window of time, but owning the customer for a lifetime.
Self-service on the Internet, if properly designed, can render great value to a customer. Customers will be empowered to track a parcel (e.g., package tracking system), resolve a technical problem, and perform other functions that would normally require human intervention and maybe numerous phone calls. If the site is properly designed and information is accurate, self-service can be a very meaningful experience for the customer and will be a win-win for both the e-organization and customer in terms of cost, experience, and time saved.