[This article was originally published on Aurora Magazine on 7th March, 2018]
Remember the 90s? The decade when music was played on audio cassettes, the number of cellular subscribers per 100 people was less than 10 (0.21 in 1990 to 8.137 in 1999) and only 248 million people were connected to the internet (1999 – only 4.1% of the world population).
Fast forward 20 years, and the picture is very different; 3,696 million people are now connected to the internet (2016 – 49.5% of the world’s population) and the number of cellular subscribers has crossed 101 (2016 – per 100 people), as many people have more than one connection.
The word which defines this change is: technology.
This technological wave (as the shift is often referred to) is in fact a ‘revolution’, just like the one in the early 19th century which changed the course of human life. Similarly, the impact of the tech revolution is not confined to the early adopters. Life is being redefined in all forms, including our role as consumers.
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a lit bit better.” This is what Jeff Bezos has to say about customer relationships. On another occasion, while explaining the factors that contributed to Amazon’s exceptional success, Bezos said: “We had three big ideas at Amazon that we stuck to for 18 years, and they are the reason we are successful: Put the customer first, invent, and be patient.”
So what does ‘putting the customer first’ mean? If we look for the answer from Amazon and Alibaba, it would be:
1 Information. The customer is provided with transparent information about sellers and products, including ratings, reviews and descriptions.
2 Choice. A wide range of products are made available to choose from. Items belong to different price ranges, quality, manufacturers, etc.
3 Availability. Apart from choice, the items are available to customers, regardless of geographical location. In addition, these items can be returned and reviewed as well.
Taking this to a broader level, customers are empowered as ‘decision-makers’ because they can make ‘informed choices’. The monetary impact of the trust between the platform and customers is reflected in the total worldwide e-commerce sales, which amount to a massive $1.86 trillion (2016).
In addition to online shopping, FinTech enables consumers to make payments (such as utility bills) online and bypass the hassle of queuing up at the bank. Yes, payment frauds are increasing, but the tech industry is coming up with better integrated and more secure options.
Rachel Martin, Global Director Product Marketing, Global Ecommerce, Pitney Bowes, when discussing the growing importance of international e-commerce, cites the rapid expansion in the number of internet and mobile users in emerging markets, advanced shipping and better payment options as factors that play an important role.
The convenience of financial technology
FinTech is a driver of financial inclusion. Examples of how technology does this include providing access to financial services to the unbanked (microfinance), an alternative to credit history (the wonderful work done by startup Tala), money transfers and cashless payments. Kenya’s M-Pesa (a decade-old money mobile service by Vodafone) is a good example. The service has more than 30 million users across Africa and it has processed about six billion transactions in the last year alone. As estimates suggest, 25% of Kenya’s GDP flows through M-Pesa. This is just one way how technology is redefining our lives.
By connecting FinTech to e-commerce, improved payment gateways are providing secure and efficient transaction options to customers. This facility acts as an impetus towards achieving a higher number of online transactions. In addition to online shopping, FinTech enables consumers to make payments (such as utility bills) online and bypass the hassle of queuing up at the bank. Yes, payment frauds are increasing, but the tech industry is coming up with better integrated and more secure options.
Problem solving through on-demand services
Uber is accepted as a synonym for on-demand services. Overlooking their recent managerial challenges, Uber have, by large, defined the concept of on-demand service globally. Put simply, they have solved common, daily life problems faced by customers – ranging from commuting, doing the laundry and buying food. It is all taken care of by this industry. Every year, 22.4 million consumers make use of the on-demand economy and spend $57.6 billion. According to the Harvard Business Review, online marketplaces such as eBay have the largest share, followed by transportation and food delivery. The underlying key to the success of this industry is convenience. Referring to a survey by the Online-Demand Economy, Business Insider states that the convenience of delivery “was the overwhelming determinant in consumers’ decision to purchase groceries online.”
Social media as the great communicator
How effective would a marketing campaign be without social media? Imagine no sponsored content on Facebook or Twitter. Apart from creating awareness about the product and sharing information with consumers, social media is redefining how consumers live. It has become a powerful medium in creating ‘brand perception’ and is the most efficient platform available to companies to communicate with their customers.
Big data and machine learning
Big data is the latest buzzword but exactly how is it shaping the customer experience? To the common man, big data provides a personalised experience which technology previously lacked. As Ginni Rommetty, CEO, IBM, puts it: “Big data will spell the death of customer segmentation and force the marketer to understand each customer as an individual within 18 months, or risk being left in the dust.”