Digital Consumers Change the Game

The future is hard to predict – but there’s one thing for certain: change. The ascendance, evolution and influence of digital consumers changes the game. That ‘game’ is Marketing, Sales, and the very capabilities of companies to manage, store, maintain and distribute information about its products. This is the information that makes its ways to digital consumers and digital shoppers any time and any way. The companies that have the savvy and the foresight to build the core capabilities needed to deliver to these consumers will win.

Think of digital consumers in three ways. The first, and simplest, is to think about their use of devices, which are constantly changing, sometimes unpredictably. Smart phones, tablets, laptops, watches, (glasses, drones?)…the list goes on. Who’s to predict which devices will dominate in even in the near future?

The second, more important way to think about digital consumers is to understand the contexts in which they will interface with brands and brand information. Where will consumers be and in what situations as they discover, research, share, form an opinion on, recommend, and purchase products? Could the automobile be the most important informational ‘hub’ location for consumers in 2020 because it’s so central to so many contexts? (Will there be an Apple car?).

It’s really about the information. To think about digital consumers is to think about the information that they will demand and expect, in every context. They will expect information to be current, accurate and rich. That would be images, videos, claims, specifications, ingredients, reviews, social-cohort recommendations, purchase sites and locations, with certainly more to come.

The companies best positioned to deliver to and win with digital consumers are the ones that understand the vital importance of information and its context. They’re building strong capabilities around governance and delivery of their product data. That’s one thing to control as they face a mostly unpredictable future.

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digital shoppingEvery 50 years or so, retailing undergoes this kind of disruption. A century and a half ago, the growth of big cities and the rise of railroad networks made possible the modern department store. Mass-produced automobiles came along 50 years later, and soon shopping malls lined with specialty retailers were dotting the newly forming suburbs and challenging the city-based department stores. The 1960s and 1970s saw the spread of discount chains—Walmart, Kmart, and the like—and, soon after, big-box “category killers” such as Circuit City and Home Depot, all of them undermining or transforming the old-style mall. Each wave of change doesn’t eliminate what came before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition. Continue reading

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