For a long time, I have been convinced that retailers have everything to gain from supporting their clients to better serve them. Today I’m even more convinced, now that new technologies allow the customer, who was formerly a mere consumer, to have full control over their purchases.
“Customer is king”: every retailer has spoken these words. Even if only once. Yet until recently it would have been relevant to question the truth of this statement, given the increasingly powerful mass market seen over the past fifty years and the fact that it is impossible to truly and effectively listen to customer expectations.
To say nothing of that fantastic liberating tool, new technologies. A tool which the consumer has been able to use to become a truly active player: the customer now has the authority when it comes to their purchasing.
Mere logisticians serving customers
This change may ultimately lead to distributors being mere logisticians serving customers. After all, these platforms already exist, especially in the digital sector. Take Airbnb or BlaBlaCar as examples. These are simply interfaces serving customers who play the roles of retailer, consumer and critic in turn. This is the ultimate acceptance of “consumer to business to consumer (C2B2C)”.
C2B2C is more than a model for e-commerce. It is, I believe, the major trend towards which retail is going to (and should) evolve. And this, whether in its gentlest form: the customer being taken into account when a service is designed, or a more involved form: the customer becomes a purchasing advisor, or in its ultimate form: as detailed above. As they gain autonomy in their relationship to retail, find out more information, share and coordinate, consumers discover the breadth of their talents.
Customers working for other customers
The twenty-first century customer is now a hotelier, chauffeur, tourist guide and food critic. By sharing his or her passions, the customer is effectively working for other customers and thereby regaining power over the whole buying cycle.
Retail can no longer do without this power: more than ever, successful retail is that which enables the customer to be successful. Distributors can achieve this by being guided exclusively by their clients and not making the mistake of believing that retail is just about buying and selling products.
Extreme customer support
This change will need to be comprehensive. Retailers should support customers in extreme ways, going beyond mere words to action. To assist with this transformation, it is up to those of us who serve the customers of our clients to help them structure the ways in which they listen to customers and use participation and collaboration wisely.
By Raphaël Palti, CEO and Founder of Altavia.