Throughout our age-of-personalization series, we reported on the evolution of the internet, with the 60s which brought on the decade of semiconductors, the 70s which was the era of the personal computer, the 80s, the with the prominence of networks, the 90s, the with the rise of the modern internet, and the 00s with the prominence of social networks, and asked the question ‘what will the next decade bring’?
As we pondered the question, while blogging, researching, interviewing and curating data through our series, we find ourselves focusing on identifying and supporting successful companies who are leveraging technology – networks, databases, aggregated information, sensors and processes – people – stakeholders and communities representing the voice of the customer – and processes – operations, logistics, methods and transactions, in order to more efficiently serve an ever more selective and discerning customer base, demanding the delivery of personalized solutions. This direction is both inevitable and pervasive, impacting industries ranging from retail to financial services, clean energy to healthcare IT, affecting all of us in every part of our day-to-day life, establishing a new reality. The macro conclusions, observations and learnings to date are summarized below, with opportunity questions and comments.
Tech Innovations in the Age of Personalization
1. Data will only grow and get more complex. Yes, it’s about the data, we have oodles and oodles of it, coming out of our ears, detailing everything from our web search habits to buying and texting patterns, from time spent in a room to preferred heating temperatures, from average speed on freeways to average expenditure for each trip to preferred stores, in preferred months, at preferred times of day.
The key to adding value through data is to first capture and integrate data from multiple sources, generate an actionable report for targeted users, measure outcomes and impact, and correct as you go. Engaging a community will be key to generating data that is relevant and connect stakeholders who can work collaboratively to serve members of the community.
2. Sensors will become even more pervasive, not just in what-we-already see for everything from home energy monitoring to health diagnostic tools, but the integration of sensors between each other, and the embedding of sensors even within the body will change the way we live, work, play and think.
The standardization of sensor technology and the data generated from it will generate integration opportunities. The winners will be companies that can integrate multiple data input from sensors, sift out the noise of the data, and provide an actionable dashboard for paying users.
Logistical Innovations in the Age of Personalization
3. Companies that can efficiently deliver personalized orders to the door will reign supreme. Thank you Dell for revolutionizing the supply chain process, making it on-demand. Thank you Google and Amazon for raising the bar beyond that, and aggregating the delivery of products to the door so efficiently and conveniently.
The key to profitability is to aggregate standard, off-the-shelf products and deliver them in concentration urban areas, in relative frequency to ensure efficient and excellent on-demand customized orders are fulfilled with sufficient margins to command profitability for the organization.
4. With that said, there will be an opportunity for those who serve niche audiences and even rural locations. It will be difficult without the fulfillment centers of Amazon, the retailer relationships of Google, and the brand of both.
Perhaps SnapDeal, the largest ecommerce marketplace in India, can compete while focusing on another tech-philic and concentrated market. Perhaps other organizations can focus on high-volume, specialized, high-margin needs for another affluent niche market. Perhaps another successful company can focus on efficiently serving the specific needs for rural populations.
Business Innovations in the Age of Personalization
5. The way we look at revenues will change, and the lines will blur between transaction, membership, advertising, and subscription revenue models. The successful companies will find synergistic opportunities that will leverage the success of one revenue stream to fuel the momentum of another, while providing wins for all stakeholders. The key is not around the revenue opportunities, but about the way to better understand and serve the customer, the ability to build a community serving your customers, and creating that virtuous circle where serving communities and customers provides increasingly more value.
What can we all learn from the Amazon example: a $299 annual fee for Amazon prime, which includes free same-day and early morning delivery on grocery orders over $35 as well as free two-day delivery on select Amazon.com-ordered items, a free Kindle e-book lending library, and an unlimited video streaming through its FireTV solution.
6. The way we sell will be forever changed. No longer are we in an age of buying-what-you-don’t-need, with money-you-don’t-have, to impress people-who-don’t-care. Successful sales people will be more customer-oriented, more tech-savvy, more proficient with social media and communications in order to create communities and distribute information efficiently, more collaborative, working with other stakeholders internally and externally and more proactive, with a clear view of their value-add: understanding the specific needs of customers, and working to tailor solutions to address these needs.
What if we selected for people with this techno-philic, progressive mindset to lead our sales efforts? What if we successfully partnered these sales stars with marketing leaders to help them communicate the message to targeted audiences? What if we all sold, not matter what our title was? What will happen to those who can’t embrace this mentality?
7. Relationship management solutions will help people connect with each other, remember each other, and communicate with each other – for the benefit of both parties. Savvy professionals will also use these relationship management tools as communication platforms for their message and brand and target prospect and customer bases as well.
How are you using LinkedIn to grow your network and stay in touch with your network? How can Newsle help you keep tabs of members of your network who make headlines? How can LinkSV give you a bottom-up view of who’s who whether your target companies? How can each be integrated into your content curation and creation efforts? What new relationship management solutions and processes would be helpful to you?
The Needs of the Customer
8. Companies and people will find to elegantly navigate regulations and policies, making it seamless for the customer throughout the prospecting, sales, integration and support periods. In addition, savvy organizations will make it easier for customers to work with them, while remaining in compliance with their own regulations.
Navigating policies and regulations are inherently a part of local and infrastructure solutions, whether it’s related to city, state, national or international requirements. Making it easier for companies to provide and deliver service locally will drive the economic development for these regions. And leaders who welcome simplified procedures and processes leveraging technology to remain in compliance will support the development of regions and organizations alike.
9. Deputizing passionate customers to deliver products and services is an interesting new trend which may take off. Whether you are enlisting vetted passengers to become drivers as in the case of UBER or Lyft, or whether it’s creating pre-ordered, recipe-d, nutritious, customized meals through services like Blue Apron, the key is that local, talented people with time and desire are blurring the lines between customer and provider.
What if we brought this concept to healthcare . . . if doctors or nurses offered concierge services and even made house calls to check in on you or your aging parents?
What if you had an on-call tech support person to fix or configure your home network and entertainment systems?
10. Delegating the small stuff will get BIG. If we’re all so busy between work and play and life, who will do the essential little stuff for us, from feeding the family to walking the dogs? We need not just a Siri on your phone who may answer your questions or add to your task list, but someone who might actually pick up a few items at the store, get the oil changed on your car, and make sure that the kids get from school to activities and back.
Technology can help calendar and coordinate and find the best resources, but it takes physical bodies to get things done, and competent, reliable ones to get them done well and efficiently, and business acumen to scale concierge services that would be attractive for busy professionals.
Couple this need with the concept above of deputizing passionate customers and where’s the win-for-all business? How will it scale and continue to serve all?
In conclusion, as we emerge into the Age of Personalization, the leaders will be those who can cost-effectively deliver customized products and services to the door of discerning users, leveraging technology to collect and analyze data, and to optimize the distribution of same. Tech, logistical and business innovations will be core to that successful solution, and the focus on the customer will remain more important than ever.
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