Revolution in the land of customer relations!

by bold-lichterman

REVOLUTION! This is the word most commonly used to refer to the arrival of digital in the lives of companies and their consumers. Not a day goes by now without the press seizing some new connected object or some other totally innovative concept according to her. In the past, outcasts in their country, here are now the entrepreneurs of these famous start-ups promoted as ambassadors of innovation and French know-how, by public authorities opening wide the doors to them of the major international masses of innovation that are the CES in Las Vegas or the Web Summit in Dublin, in order to make the France star shine even more. The reality is however a little more complex, and beyond the varnish lie glaring disparities between the markets in their capacity to digitalize while meeting the expectations of consumers.

Because yes indeed, the digitalization of the economy does not only bring fluidity in business processes and better productivity. It also makes it possible to meet the needs of consumers and meet their expectations in real time! Even if I grant you that, it is clear that all the players have not yet understood it equally.

Applications, a real innovation in customer relations

Listening to consumers corresponds to two distinct actions. First of all, there is the ability to create products, services or solutions – a combination of a product and a service – responding to present or future use, with simplicity, economy and efficiency. But there is also the quality of listening to consumer requests and responding to them in real time as part of an after-sales service, for example, or simply in communication with communities.

The first sector that comes to mind is high tech. “It’s not fair”, you will say to me! Yet it is a reality. Who better than Apple, Google or Facebook succeed in real time to meet the expectations of consumers, even if it means creating them? Let us remember all the same that in 2007, when Apple presented the first generation of iPhone, the mobile market was monopolized by three manufacturers (Microsoft, Nokia and Blackberry) which no longer represent anything today in terms of share of market ! However, we cannot say that the iPhone offered such an important technological advance that it left the majority of its competitors on the side of the road. Beyond its ease of use, the real revolution was the introduction of applications by the Apple Store. Almost non-existent before, applications are now a very popular tool for consumers and essential to meet their needs. They also have the ability to update themselves on smartphones almost automatically in order to keep pace with market developments. What could be better for brands who take the opportunity to collect billions of data in order to better… listen to their communities.

Retail is reinventing itself

Retail is also quite surprising in its ability to reinvent itself and use technology to get closer to its consumers. More and more extensive use of Ibeacon, wifi or lifi, creation of concepts allowing to immerse themselves in a real universe in connection with the web or the applications, the brands compete in imagination to get closer to their communities with more or less success but more and more convictions. A perfect example would be that of Stich Fix. Katrina Lake, its founder, was convinced early on that it was necessary to help women dress in style instead of drowning them under the constant novelties. The idea had germinated and would grow into a formidable fashion distribution concept, applying data analysis algorithms to preferences entered by customers to send them a personalized selection of clothing and accessories. Launched four years ago, the site is showing insolent triple-digit growth and already over $ 300 million in revenue. On the same concept, several competitors have emerged such as Trunk Club or Chic Types in France, for us men.

Speaking of excellence in retail in terms of consumer experience, we must again mention the case of Apple. Have you ever been to an Apple Store? Impressive! Here are stores designed as temples of design and high technology, volume, fluidity, perfect integration with the dedicated in-house application, even allowing you to pay directly for the product you want to buy without any intervention from an employee. , and the height of luxury, no waiting. Go check it out for yourself. When you buy a product in an Apple Store, everything has been thought of so that you have a unique shopping experience without any waiting. I had the misfortune of wanting to go do some shopping at the FNAC in Paris. We are quite far from the unique shopping experience. Not to mention the mass distribution, which is light years away from the concept. Burberry too, in the luxury sector, has for years succeeded in making customer experience and digitization a major axis of growth, serving as a benchmark for the entire sector in the field. It is no coincidence that the brand’s general manager, Angela Ahrends, was debauched at a high price in 2014 to take over the management of all physical and virtual distribution…. from Apple. Great minds meet, as we say back home.

A new, peaceful and digital relationship with the customer

Another market in transformation: the one relating to home equipment and home automation. Driven by the growing growth of connected objects and the promises of new uses linked to the use of data, manufacturers are competing in ingenuity to carve out the lion’s share in this gigantic market. And who is the big winner of this latent war? The consumer. Not for a question of price but for the attention paid by all manufacturers and distributors to its smallest needs. Philips, Whirlpool, Nest and even Darty surprise us with their innovations responding to the now bible of user experience. By offering its customers a button that can be magnetized on the fridge and used to be called free of charge within the hour by its customer service, Darty has breathed fresh air into customer relations, which several of its competitors would do well. to be inspired. Tomorrow, the analysis of the data provided by all the connected objects in the house will allow all these manufacturers to provide as many value-added services as they do products. An evolution of their economic model well understood by the operators which will lead to more profits for them and a major simplification of the life of the customers.

Even the extremely conservative sector and particularly behind in the field of banking is starting to get started and to consider that it might be in their interest to listen to the customer. Here the announcement of a future strategic plan revolving around digital, there the development of a new application centered around the user, not a week has passed since the start of the school year without an actor in the sector making an announcement . Better late than never ! It must be said that there is danger in the remainder for a sector steeped in convictions and having totally forgotten for years the first rule when talking about money:intuitu personae. So now there are banks returning to the strategy of the single communication platform and the sales advisor at all costs, for the benefit of a new, peaceful and digital relationship with the customer. Time will tell if these late conversions to new human values ​​imposed by the digitization of our world are words or deeds!

You will understand, the ancestral principle of the client-king, inculcated from father to son in the families of traders, has not finished returning to the taste of the day declined in digital sauce. And this is the best thing that can happen to all sectors! A permanent revolution for almost 20 years now, digital has finally made it possible to put an end to decades of “commercialization” of human relationships in favor of a new relationship based on communication and listening. All that remains is to hope that these new values, driven by digital technology in a good number of sectors, will fit in with the times and defeat the popular saying: “Far from the eyes, far from the heart!”.


Jean-Christophe Bonis, founder ofOxymore Inc., is now a partner and head of research and strategy for the strategy firm based in London and Paris. Specialized in new technologies for more than 15 years on behalf of investment funds then as a consultant, he devotes his professional life to the analysis of the consequences of new technologies on consumer behavior and the strategic implications on organizations. .