I keep reading that intelligent processes will replace automated processes. On the other hand, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are striving to become Customer Engagement systems. Consumers (and business buyers) are increasingly well-informed and only acknowledge marketing that helps us, not marketing that yells the loudest. We are becoming aware of our changed buying habits and the fact that salespeople cannot educate customers anymore. Buyers are (mostly) educated by marketing which provides content in (mostly) digital channels. The salesperson only needs to finish the deal if marketing has done its job.
One of our projects has made me believe that salespeople will also lose their role in closing the deal. Let’s say that closing the deal involves two key components: acquiring the order and providing services to the buyer. If intelligent online/mobile agents and connected devices (Internet of Things) can overcome the fears connected to completing the purchase, the seller is only left with supplying the ordered goods – logistics if you will.The seller only needs to close the deal if marketing has done its job effectively. Click To Tweet
Companies with an excellent online presence that is adapted to individual buyers according to their interests and readiness to buy make the customer journey quite a lot easier for their buyers. The knowledge which is provided by their marketing departments empower their potential customers. They also embolden their competitors who learn to follow them, so slowly a bigger and bigger part of the market acts this way. This means that providers will slowly need to implement a new method to charm customers. Content will no longer suffice, because we are nearing the point of oversaturation. What more could we do to get closer to our customer? Can we bet on the intelligent data that the IT industry likes to promise with their big data perspective and the Internet of Things (IoT)?How to charm customers? Content won't suffice, since we're nearing the point of oversaturation. Click To Tweet
I can imagine that we’ll be working on completely different projects two years from now – trying to increase sales and acquire new customers for our partners using entirely different approaches. I’m sure that the “closing” part will be automated, simplified and brought closer to the customer in the B2C (not only for FMCG products) segment.
Let me demonstrate. Let’s take Mercator, one of Slovenia’s largest supermarket chains. If you pay or use discounts (collect points) with their Pika loyalty card, this provides Mercator with an overview of your purchases. It provides them with information on how often you shop in their stores and which conditions must be realized for completing your purchases. They also know the contents of your shopping cart. If you visit their online store and you are already registered as its user or just receive their email newsletter and allow cookies on your computer/tablet/smartphone, Mercator should know which products you are interested in and what you are searching for. If these products never appear in your shopping cart, you may be buying them from one of their competitors. Probably because their offer is better. Past purchases and current behavior in online channels should be enough for Mercator to offer an intelligently acting personal shopping assistant to me.
If Mercator proactively fills my typical shopping cart online at the right moment (I do my shopping on Tuesdays and Saturdays) and asks me whether I want it delivered in the evening, it would be hard for me to ignore this. It would save me time on a chore that must be done anyway. This would be much more successful than counting on me to click on products and buy them in their online store on a Tuesday morning. If they are counting on me visiting their brick and mortar store in the afternoon, they may loose my business for the day if I decide to shop in a competitors store that day.The comfort of buying has its own value (that is why downtown shops are not exactly thriving). Click To Tweet
I would of course expect some initiative from an intelligent assistant – at least compared to the online store where I have to click, search and choose products by myself. This would certainly increase the comfort of my buying experience. Upon confirming my typical shopping cart order, the assistant could try to challenge me a little bit. It could offer 3 products that I am interested in according to my behavior in digital channels. It could then show me how much these products cost in competitors’ stores and offer me to buy them at a lower price. Just this time and just for me. Like a supermarket cashier following me to the parking lot with an additional product offering me a lower price than I would get in competing supermarkets. Many people would probably add such a product to their order.
I am not that price sensitive in my weekly grocery shopping. The comfort of buying has its own value (that is why downtown shops are not exactly thriving). When the seller is upselling or trying to sell an additional product that I seem to be interested in according to my behavior patterns on digital channels, the price of the product in competitive stores may be the key information that I need to complete the purchase in this research phase.
If the merchant doesn’t offer a buying assistant that checks prices and offers “personalized” discounts, a third party may do this and come between them and the buyers. Someone who could quickly make shopping lists from barcodes of products that we buy in supermarkets and won’t hesitate to find our favorite products at stores that offer lowest prices and acceptable delivery rates. The boundaries of such a service are left to the imagination and demands of its buyers. Logistical limitations are also a factor, but technology is quickly removing those as well. Self-driving cars, drones… All these things are not as distant as they seem. It’s a matter of a couple of years and not decades.