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The SituationIt's the customer, stupid
The stress of millennium life in the economic first world comes not from too little but from too much. It is the blessing and curse of our generation. We have to work harder so that we can afford to play harder because we desire the lifestyles that Hollywood promises.
The need to put in more effort to enjoy more leisure is at the heart of the e-customer profile. But despite what has become the `cash rich, time poor' cliche, the e-customer is still more often offered the chance to `save money' with internet companies than the chance to `save time' or `improve your lifestyle'.
Companies witlessly rush to market with offerings that do not consider the demands and requirements of their e-customers. They put forward services that seem to judge the e-customer to be an unthinking consumer - an undiscerning diner, a muncher of mediocre meals.
Is the e-customer ready simply to eat what is laid out before him? Not at all certain. He does not have an automatic appetite. The gadget junkies will keep buying, unable (and unwilling) to stop. The stuff is enough for them. It doesn't necessarily have to deliver better lives, it just has to look pretty and have flashing lights in all the right places.
The much tougher group is the wider population of potential and actual e-customers. Some of them don't always see the point at all. Others want to have the advantages made clear and unambiguous. They both need to be enticed in, educated. And most of all they want services that really deliver.
Services that deliver. Deliver what? What the e-customer appreciates. What he wants to pay for. Not just a simple set of objective improvements,but stuff that speaks his language, pushes his buttons, clicks with his karma and, most importantly, fits in with his priorities.
And what are these priorities? Just listen to the experience of self-titled `personal coach' Cheryl Richardson. She has created a new profession out of simply helping the e-customer to make better decisions about their over-busy lives.
MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF THE FAST-PACED, FRENZIED 'INFORMATION AGE' AND ARE INTERESTED IN HIGHER-QUALITY LIVES - LIVES IN WHICH THEY HAVE MORE TIME FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIPS, MORE ENERGY TO INVEST IN THEIR EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL, AND SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING. WHETHER YOU'RE A CORPORATE EXECUTIVE WORKING 60 HOURS A WEEK, A SINGLE PARENT TRYING TO RAISE A FAMILY, OR SOMEONE WHO'S TIRED OF FEELING STRESSED OUT AND PRESSED FOR TIME, YOU HAVE A CHOICE ABOUT HOW TO LIVE YOUR LIFE.
Her book, Take Time for Your Life, is a huge best-seller. Tens of thousands bought it. More than 40 million people in the USA alone buy anti-stress and self-improvement books every year. The e-customer is trying hard to tell the producers and providers of stuff everywhere that he wants more life for his lira. Simply delivering products cheaper to the customer's door isn't very creative. It may be logistically challenging to many businesses involved, but it isn't likely to thrill the e-customer. Sometimes he isn't sure what all the fuss is about. Usually he just expects more.
If he spares it any thought at all he wonders just how hard it can be to turn his self-typed order into a rapid delivery. He does all the work, so of course he deserves the price savings. This is what he has been taught to think. He wanted to think it anyway. But we have advertised and marketed the savings angle so hard that he accepts it as his birthright.
If you sell it cheap you have to make it for less. Cheaper requires greater efficiency. Or poverty. And penniless does not make good shareholder reading. Less money at just the time that the business requires more investment to make the services really work - it's a tough combination. And it has been accentuated by so much of the spending on marketing. Spend more: to tell your e-customers that they can save more. Are you sure that is the most sensible approach?
Check your money-grabbing motivations in at the door
Inventiveness, experimentation, greed and fear: the driving forces behind so much of the activity. Inventors produce tools. Experimenters play with them and find that they might just be able to compete with the big guys. Greed drives the flocks of net millionaire `wannabees' to launch copy-cat services. Fear provokes the established businesses to invest in fending off the start-ups.
Businesses globally continue to pour in money. The cost of the infrastructure to support such services is immense. The investment required to provide the services themselves is even higher. Those who have paid in want to see pay-back, a rapid return on the investment of millions or billions.
Bidding for the `thin air' licences required for new generation, high performance wireless communications has led to phenomenal prices being paid. And now the proud owners of such licences need to build the networks to utilize them. They will have to come up with reasons for the e-customer to pay more than $1,000 a head for the new services...