More than ever, customers have become “empowered customers”. They can pick and choose whose products and media to consume, whose rules to follow, and what they are or aren’t willing to give up. The idea of the “empowered customer” existed earlier in the 2010s, but in 2017, it’s starting to become more of a reality.
But businesses are empowered, too
Of course, the ability of consumers to pick and choose what they want to use, read, watch, or do is an essential one. A healthy market needs to offer options. And it does, in spades. But as consumers have gained more options, so have businesses. There are increasingly more powerful and flexible ways to market to, advertise to and communicate with potential customers.
Take blogs, for example
Back in the early 2000s, blogging as a platform was in its infancy. Blogs weren’t favoured by search engines in any way, and blogging software often failed to provide blogs with the sort of SEO optimization that a web page of any kind needs to compete.
These days, search engines know where to put blogs: they know whether a blog or a specific post on a blog is an informative and helpful response to a search query, they know how popular a blog is, and they know how new it is. All of this goes into whether a blog shows up on the first page of Google, and all of these server-side advances help businesses.
But businesses can help themselves, too. There are many ways to convert visitors into customers. Advertising your product is one thing, but even better is using a blog to provide informative tips on using it, or to explain who your product is or is not for. But all that barely scratches the surface: many online resources provide even more ideas.
So who doesn’t gain power from all this?
Artificial intelligences. Despite both hopes and fears that AI will revolutionize the customer experience, many of the most impressive AIs today are out of reach of the average business.
Google’s Go and Chess AIs might be able to go toe-to-toe with, and even beat, world champions. But those are AIs with colossal horsepower, entire networks at their beck and call, and years of work put into them. And the field of customer service is more nebulous, even more people-oriented and unpredictable, than what even those AIs are designed to do.
Many of the most intriguing small-scale AI offerings are still in their infancy, as well, and all of this comes together to mean that though the technology is advancing and savvy businesses should keep an eye on it, it’s not ready for prime-time yet.