The tectonic plates of the marketplace are slowly and inexorably altering the landscape. Customers' sense of individuality, demand for privacy and technological empowerment are the driving forces and they are unstoppable. It's time to build a house where the new coastline will be.
The poster child for this change is the mobile phone. I hold one and I feel the ground shaking (or is that the vibrate mode). No one but no one leaves home without it. For the 18 – 34 year old segment the mobile device is becoming a remote control for their lives, a tool that links the physical and digital worlds, giving each of them the power to turn on, or off, their own private network of information. They have created the network of me.
The network of me is, by definition, idiosyncratic. Who do I want to connect with, to whom do I make myself available, do I want to be entertained, do I have commerce on my mind? It's all about me. How do you get invited to be part of the network of me? I've got two big ideas: trust and respect.
1. Build trust. The customer is in complete control. The most powerful competitive differentiator is for your customers to trust that you will always treat them well. Not adequately but well. Customers expect to be treated poorly. I think customers will be pleased to tell us how they want to be treated. We've got to value the answers, because happier customers stay longer and buy more.
Which sounds very logical. Trust = a preference for our brand = long-term profitability. But the only way the development of trust can become a corporate strategy is if there is a corresponding system of measurement and reward. Until that time, we're whistling while the barn burns.
2. Respect customers' privacy. Let's pretend I am the customer. I want a sturdy fence around my privacy. I think opt-in is respectful and opt-out is disrespectful. If I give a company any personal information, I want them to use it for the purpose I intended. It's OK for them to use it to treat me better. That's it. Many of the privacy policies I read are based in opt-out – that's where the company retains the rights to do just about anything they want, unless I holler stop.
Look, there are powerful forces at work here and that can become enormous opportunity. The choice is ours. We can adapt or die. The allegory is the music industry. Confronted with the network of me, they chose to fight. We might as well turn, draw our swords and march to do battle with the tide.
Scott Hornstein is the Chief Marketing Officer at Wired Assets Data Corporation. firstname.lastname@example.org.