Humans have been consuming goods and services from the early days of human existence. From stone-age tools to modern day tools like smartphones, humans have been using tools to enrich human life, to make life better and comfortable.
Digital is the new tool in an insatiable journey of human evolution to constantly strive for making life better, easier, and more comfortable. Businesses are using digital to acquire new customers, engage with customers in new ways, transact business, stay more relevant to their customers, ensure customer satisfaction, and even stay ahead of competition.
What is Digital? Digital is a consumer experience on what a consumer is interested in seeking, learning, playing, working, transacting, and consuming essentially enabled by online world. The products and services consumed can be both online or offline
Digital experience on the experience continuum can range from frustration, despair leading to apathy on one side to experience of satisfaction, gratification, or ultimate delight on the other side where customer has near Nirvana experience and would want to come back again and again. If you are in business it is your call what experience you would want to offer to your customers.
A starting point of digital experience is empowering your customers with information. Elaborate information on what your product or service and sometimes comparisons with competing products. Most consumers like to make informed decisions or at least they would like to feel that way, that the decision they are making is an informed one and therefore the right one for them. Starting from company web site to having adequate information on the product or service in the digital internet space, on social media, both online and offline would bring in brand introductions, brand nurturing, brand reinforcement, and brand recall. This can help in retaining existing customers as well as acquiring new customers. The twitterati generation requires mostly precise crisp brief information to begin. And for the detailed oriented ones, there can be elaborate information enabling them to get the minutest information on product or service features, specifications, pricing and reviews etc.
In addition to empowering customers with information, digital businesses are more and more facilitating business transactions. Earlier large businesses often pointed customers to channel partners’ web sites and the actual business transaction would be conducted by dealers or agents. The new players often challengers to the traditional business started introducing online transactions that became their differentiator. Mainstream traditional players were eventually forced embrace online transactions. There is still significant portion of business that is conducted offline, however the digital enabled business is experiencing higher growth.
The present day digital tools provide immense power of raising and setting new bars of personalization experience. Your taxi aggregator app provider knows who you are, where you reside, where you work, where you are now, your likely destination at a particular time of the day, and the class of service you are likely to consume. And this is beginning of machine learning and artificial intelligence that will continue to be pushed further and bar will continue to be raised perpetually.
This brings in opportunity to engage with customers in new ways, respecting customers’ privacy, businesses can still engage customers in new ways. The demographic information and customer behavioral patterns shall continue to be a perfect breeding ground source of product innovation. The window to the digital world opens through the connected devices. Historically, PCs and laptops only provided this window. Smartphones and tablets have brought in new breed of customers and for many of these new customers, smartphones have been the first and sometimes only internet device opening their window to the digital world. Digital strategy and engagement need to account for your target customers and devices they may be using from time to time. Some of the new class of devices have started offering a whole new gamut of opportunities.
In this journey the businesses that remain relevant to customers will succeed, thrive, and continue to grow their market share. And this will happen many times at the cost of other service providers who are struggling to stay relevant and to whom customers will eventually shut doors. If your customers are not growing, perhaps it is time to ponder that are your products current or outdated? The other and bigger question would be that is your engagement model how you interact with your customers is relevant and providing you the necessary outreach to your customers? If your relevance is average, your time window may be short and you may be heading for a stagnated market share if not slow death. Digital can be the tool to keep your business more relevant to your customers. Once implemented properly, digital has tremendous ability to offer ultimate customer experience customer delight and unique and instant ability to close the customer feedback loop. Your twenty some thousandth customer purchases a product and starts using and feedback mechanism both customer initiated or machine learning driven can be of immense help on keeping tab on the relevance meter of your product.
We need to remain cognizant of the fact that significant part of our population is on the other side of the digital divide and does not have digital access. And the present day digital tools are not relevant to this population of digital-have-nots. If your products and services serve these segments of consumers, digital has limitations in reaching out to them and you will have to continue to serve them in traditional ways.
Vir Bhanu is an entrepreneur and CEO of Suventure.