Be useful, be helpful, and be quick: the features of future businesses
Digitalization has transformed the market: people have different needs and their relationships with brands have changed. As a result, companies need to be efficient, and they need to be able to build ecosystems of trust that attract consumers’ attention.
By 2018 customers were already talking about chatbots and stories. They buy products they’ve heard about from their favorite influencers and they shop in marketplaces. There’s little doubt that the rules of the game are changing. We are seeing the growth of a new language, and witnessing the birth of new forms of communication in society. In fact, the number of internet users across the world has increased, and now exceeds 50% of the population: 4 billion, according to the latest report from We Are Social and Hootsuite. We are spending more and more time in front of screens.
The incursion of digitalization isn’t only having a direct impact on our lives, it is also transforming organizations, and the way customers behave and relate to brands. This is why, rather than approach the change by trying to win a race to be pioneers of technological adaptation, companies need to identify the keys to understanding their new users, adapt to them, and anticipate their needs.
Brands need to be helpful
Joanna Borowska, Google’s Head of Marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, firmly believes we’ve entered a new era – one which represents a huge growth opportunity for businesses: “The age of assistance is already here. Consumers have changed, but businesses still have not”. The Google marketing expert sees these new consumer trends as having great potential, but warns of the challenges that come with them in terms of company dynamics. Nowadays “only one in three brand experiences is actually useful for consumers” and “only 25% of them are taking advantage of the potential of data-based strategies”, Borowska claims.
The way she sees it, businesses should exploit their capacity to be “helpful”, and their goal should be to become a useful tool for consumers. “Consumers today are more curious and impatient than ever”, she says. But nonetheless, according to Borowska, the key to business sustainability goes beyond this one concept. It should be accompanied by three other key drivers: knowing the right moment to send relevant messages, being useful, and being quick compared to the competition.
Trust, the key to success
For Laure Claire Reiller, co-founder of technological innovation consultancy Launchworks and author of Platform Strategy, the social transformation we’re going through has supplanted the traditional business system. The corporate trend of being limited to a linear production and sales model is no longer functional in the present day and the market is demanding a change in business mentality. “Businesses with platforms at their cores are the most valuable listed companies in the world”, Reiller claims. When she talks about platforms she’s referring to organizations that don’t center purely on their commercial or sales strategy, but rather those that have chosen to create value based on the way they connect with users.
As such, in our increasingly digitalized world it has become essential to humanize brands and bring them closer to customers. And that’s why it is crucial to go one step further and build unique ecosystems, micro worlds which connect sellers and consumers in an environment of mutual trust.
Data, an essential travel companion on the journey to get closer to customers
With many companies finding themselves immersed in a newly redefined corporate world, Enrique Arribas, Corporate Marketing and Brand Director at Banco Santander, highlights the importance of making responsible use of the analytical potential of big data. Proper use of data not only creates more honest communication with users, but also makes it possible to personalize the products and services we offer them. “Data allows us to give relevant and appropriate offerings, tailored both to the context and our customers”, claims Arribas. But even still, this should not divert attention from other focal points which are vital to a company’s development: “Data provides us with so much efficiency and measurement capability that at times we fall into the temptation of focusing too much attention on it, forgetting to build our brand”.
Arribas believes that companies now must try to mitigate, as much as possible, the level of uncertainty in this context. “It’s a question of always staying up-to-date as a company, with sufficient knowledge of the market to be able to see what’s coming next”, he explains. But this needs to be done without losing sight of our goal of getting to know our customers better, as this is what will make a real difference: “New generations demand much more ethical and responsible behavior from companies.”
Real time feedback is crucial for prosper
Esther Morillas, Marketing Director for Coca Cola, thinks along the same lines. For her, one of the red lines businesses must never cross is to fail to respect the privacy and ownership of user data. In our current state of technological fervor Morillas reminds us that we should never forget that information belongs to the consumer: “We need to remember that whilst it may make things more efficient for us, and give us the opportunity to send exactly the right message, we cannot use this data with total freedom”.
With these impassable ethical boundaries in place, she is a firm defender of the potential the digital transformation has when it comes to generating branded content. “Now you launch a message and you automatically know how the consumer is interacting with your brand, we get real time feedback. This has paved the way for a wealth of content, and gives branded content more power” claims the director.
Technology as an apprentice of human knowledge
Artificial Intelligence can also play its part in strengthening the interaction between users and businesses. In fact, Telefónica has recently launched its own virtual assistant “Aura”. For Chema Alonso, the company’s Chief Data Officer, it is fundamentally important to remember that “technology has been created to improve people’s lives” and not to replace them. In this vein Alonso offers a reflection on how we might reassess the way we think about technological advances: “For many years, we human beings have had to learn how to use technological interfaces. Now we’re in an era when technology needs to learn about human interfaces”.