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HOW THE WEB IMPACTS STRATEGY

Thanks to the Web, customers are more powerful and demanding and we can learn a lot more about them.

The Web shifts power away from organizations and towards customers. Historically, the tools of organization were scarce and expensive resources. Assembling a couple of thousand people and getting them to work towards a common goal was no easy feat. But the Web has democratized the ability to organize. From the age of organizational royalty, the Web has ushered in a period of customer democracy.

The implications for organizational strategy are significant. Organizations can no longer advertise the customer into submission. Organizations can no longer control the message so easily through public relations. Organizations can no longer expect customers to invest time in learning the language of the organization and/or how to use the organization’s products and services.

The customer demands simplicity, that organizations organize around them. Easy to use is a customer tsunami ripping across the world. Ease of use and simplicity must now be at the heart of organizational strategy.

The customer knows what they want on the Web. Search, by its very nature, is a directed, deliberate activity. When was the last time you went to Google and said: “I don’t know what to search for. Someone give me a word.”

This has significant implications for marketing strategy. Many web initiatives are dominated by traditional marketing thinking oriented towards getting attention. This significantly influences the design of webpages, particularly homepages. But when a customer arrives at your webpage you already have their attention. They have questions. They have a task they want to complete quickly.

On the Web customers always leave a trail. Everywhere they go they leave digital footprints. So, we have this unusual combination of the empowered, confident customer about whom we know an increasing amount.

A technology company I work with has lots of customers who need to repeatedly download a certain type of software. By storing the history of these software downloads and presenting it back in a 1-click download fashion, they save their customers’ a lot of time.

Using knowledge about customers to make their lives easier is a win-win situation. Abusing that knowledge is an increasingly risky business. Social media is the customer’s form of advertising and public relations. The tools of media are now in the customer’s hands.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to understand customers is observing their behavior. The Web is a laboratory of human behavior and knowledge of that behavior is often best gained through watching a customer as they seek to complete a task. This can all be done remotely. In fact, remote observation is the cheapest, fastest and most effective form of observation.

The Web changes strategy from being focused on how things are produced to how they are used, how they are consumed. It is the outcome and behavior we need to pay attention to, not the input. Customers demand ease of use. The way to make things easy to use is to better understand customer behavior. To do that we need to observe what people do.

If your organization wants to make best use of the Web focus your strategy on making things easy for your customers.

mailto:gerry@gerrymcgovern.com

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