The last few years have seen tremendous changes in the business world; particularly the way customers, employees and partners are interacting and collaborating to conduct their business. Customers are making decisions to buy or discontinue a service with a click of a button. The “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) trend involves employees bringing their own smart phones and tablets to work, which is significantly impacting both IT and business. Brokers and agents are leveraging smart gadgets to speed up the business cycle by educating, building relationships and doing business with customers. For example, using a tablet, an insurance agent can instantly run illustrations and compare premium quotes for insurance products simultaneously, making it easier for clients to see the various options. The “consumerization of IT” trend is having an enormous impact on businesses and is something they must take steps to embrace. In other words, the “empowered consumer” has arrived and is here to stay!
Empowered Consumer – Redefining the Role of IT
The empowered consumer which could be a customer, employee or a partner, has more options to choose from, more information at his/ her disposal, and most importantly, access to collective intelligence on which they base their decision to buy a product or service. The journey from an “also a” buyer to an “empowered” consumer has been the direct result of technology innovation in the last few years. iPhones, iPads and other smart gadgets are driving the empowered consumer movement. Moreover, a number of factors including tech savvy generations, the mobile workforce, social collaboration, and technology convergence are helping consumers to be at the center of a business activity. Some interesting insights can be gleaned from a recent study on Millenial workers. The study shows that Millennials expect immediate responses, prefer a wider variety of communication channels and try to solve technology problems themselves. In the survey, 61% of the Millenials (respondents) indicated that they don’t turn to company support first to solve problems and 40% use a mobile device for work. These and other facts provide some interesting insights, challenges and opportunities for businesses. The question is: how should businesses/IT adapt to the evolving empowered consumer paradigm? Going from a business enabler role to that of leading the business transformation initiative, in the future, how should IT look at its role?
The Goal – Consumer-Centric IT
Unlike in the not-so-distant past, businesses today are being exposed to the vagaries of technology advancements; it is either adopt or perish for businesses. The future is slowly unfolding, and the key patron driving these cataclysmic changes is the empowered consumer. For businesses the need of the hour is Consumer-centric IT, an approach that revolves around the empowered consumer. The ability to foresee how the future will evolve is every business’ dream. Below are our thoughts on what CIOs need to keep in mind while building their future consumer-centric IT strategy:
- Digital Avatar, Creating a Positive Experience: With customers finding dependence and reliability in online conversations revolving around a product or service, businesses must create a virtual persona who is able to listen and engage with customers in the online world. A recent study shows that a sizeable percentage of the GEN Y use social media to engage with brands and 50% of them indicated that Facebook, blogs and brand videos affect their opinions about products. It is important that businesses leverage social media to effectively meet the “reach of internet,” and ensure positive experiences are created around its brand.
- Merging of Personal Technology & Work: It’s the age of “anytime, anywhere” work. The arrival of smart phones and gadgets has been crucial for the growth of this culture. In the future, more and more employees will demand use of their smart gadgets in the workplace. Businesses must have a plan, approach, policies and systems in place to address this situation.
- Leveraging the Power of “Big Data”: Every customer interaction, business transaction, employee feedback or a product failure has a story to tell. Hidden within the depths of organizational history, is its “Big Data” – which can be the source of innovation, a new product launch, strengthening employee engagement or increasing revenue. Unfortunately, apart from a few organizations, the majority have yet to leverage “Big data” to transform their businesses. CIOs will have to invest in advanced analytics to tap the vast amount of actionable information that they have in their vestiges.
The empowered consumer is rapidly changing and redefining the traditional role of IT. Those enterprises that understand this trend and realize the impact the empowered consumer is having on their business will achieve success. In fact, these enterprises are the ones that are driving the movement towards consumer-centric IT and adopting the above strategies. A consumer-centric approach offers immense possibilities and opportunities for businesses to innovate, enhance their consumer experience, increase consumer satisfaction and drive future growth.
The question is: Is IT ready to adopt this type of approach and make it part of their future mandate? Does IT have the courage to take initiative and provide the vision for the business? As with everything, there are risks, but we believe IT must take this plunge and embrace the empowered consumer movement in order to ensure continued growth for the business.