Digital Darwinism and customer-centricity with Brian Solis

The End of Business As Usual by Brian SolisBrian Solis published a new book a while back, called ‘The End of Business as Usual’. I asked Brian some questions that are related to the ideas he develops in it.

A talk about Digital Darwinism, customer-centricity (and how many businesses unfortunately siloed social media), social business and a new breed of consumers that requires you to be extremely adaptive.

Or, as Brian, who joins us for an event next Summer says: #AdaptorDie.

Agile. Adaptive. Real-time. That’s the slogan of quite some businesses now. It’s also an important part of your new book. Be agile and adopt an adaptive customer-facing culture and even people-centric vision in a more thorough way than ever before. Reality shows most businesses are still organized in silos and don’t involve the consumer/customer in key business functions. When and how should consumers get involved in business and decision processes, so that adaptive becomes more than a hollow slogan?

Digital Darwinism: can you respond to change?

Charles Darwin source Wikipedia
Charles Darwin, source Wikipedia

Brian Solis: This is indeed the premise of my new book, The End of Business as Usual. Getting closer to customers is something most businesses will claim as an ongoing priority. Most of the time, I believe that businesses pay lip service to customers much in the same way politicians make promises to voters prior to each election. Consumers will not wait for businesses to “get it.” They are becoming empowered through technology, digital connections, and an amplified reach. They influence and are influenced by one another to greater extent and effect with each day that passes.

How consumers take decisions is also changing. At some point, without businesses truly becoming customer-centric or adapting to how their customers are evolving; they face a very real future wrought with Digital Darwinism. This is a phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than your ability to adapt.

The truth is that evolution is a natural part of business. It’s both survival of the fittest and also survival of the fitting. As Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”

Businesses are designed to be rigid

The rigidity we see in many organizations is translated into a top-down culture and divisions with managers, defending their own domain. Managers are consumers as well. So they have their egosystem, as you call it. They also live, as most businesses, in the Galilean mentality: “we are the center of the world.” In the Copernican view businesses should have, the consumer is at the center and at the driving wheel. How do you overcome the ego-challenges within a business to put the consumer where he belongs? In the end, we all look at the world from a self-centred perspective.

Brian Solis: And…in the era of democratized influence, we are all at the mercy of the EGOsystem. Individuals are quite literally at the center of their own universe. Who they connect with, the organizations they follow, what they say and share is unique to them. Their experience, what they read, and in turn how they react is dependent on who they know, and it’s different than what you or I experience online. This is the ego that is defining the new landscape for consumer relations. Defending one’s territory is a natural occurrence within organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Businesses are designed to be rigid…to follow operational processes, to improve efficiencies and ultimately profitability. The difference between then and now, however, is leadership. Like consumers, managers too can be empowered. They just need to understand what they’re working towards. Customer-centricity isn’t just a prevailing philosophy nor just words. It’s a framework that requires a holistic approach as consumers don’t see corporate fiefdoms nor territories. They see only one business and at some point; we’ll have to start acting like what it is they expect.

The silos of social media: the missed holistic customer-centric opportunity

Consumers behave differently. They call the shots, decide how and when they want to interact, use a multitude of resources to inform themselves – often using their social ecosystems – and are channel-agnostic. They constantly jump channels, with mobile devices playing the role of the swiss knife hubs of their egosystems. The role of a business is not to sell. It is to facilitate the buy. Which levels of interaction and which qualities does a business need to make this happen with the new breed of consumers?

Brian Solis: This is one of the greatest misunderstandings in this new era of connected consumerism. I blame social media and those marketers that have already siloed many of these remarkable channels within the marketing organization. If you look at the top three departments that own social media today it’s 1) marketing, 2) marketing communications and 3) public relations.

Customer service is somewhere on the list. Sales is too. However, they’re nowhere near where they need to be in order to provide a holistic experience to connected customers seeking direction or resolution in their channels of preference. The fact of the matter is that how connected consumers take decisions is changing. As a result, it’s opening new touch points. It takes much more than marketing to lead customers. While marketing is still incredibly important, consumers expect to see sales, service, HR, finance, and other representatives where their attention and relationships reside.

Consumerism and the connected consumer

How would you define the new consumerism? And what do you think about the evolutions from a personal perspective? Is the egosystem here to stay in an era where consumption is a challenge from a broader societal perspective?

Business as Usual is an Oxymoron Created by gapingvoid in celebration of the book launch
Created by @gapingvoid in celebration of the “Business As Usual” book launch

Brian Solis: There are three distinct classes of customer at this moment. You have traditional consumers who are quite comfortable reading magazines and newspapers, listening to the radio, watching TV, and talking to a tight-knit group of people and businesses they trust. You have online consumers, which is a consumer category that we’ve gotten to know, and to some extents are still grappling with, over the last 15 years or so.

Now you have a connected consumer who lives in social and mobile networks. Their spheres of influence are far greater than we can imagine. How they take decisions, how they learn, and how they influence and are influenced is not at all like the other two groups. However, we tend to lump everyone together even in the most innovative of experiments.

Think about it for a moment, how many business websites do you praise? How many websites do you surf comfortably from your tablet or smartphone? Few…and that’s just to cater to the online consumer let alone the connected consumer. Here, the biggest challenge is approach.

The connected experience

Connected consumers expect us to come to them. They expect a guided and optimized experience that takes into account their preferences. The customer experience is your Digital Darwinism challenge (and overall challenge for that matter).

When I think about how the expectations of the connected consumer and the influence, they wield individually, and collectively, I see the challenges we face internally. What is the ROI? How will this impact our business? Sometimes I wonder if ROI indeed stands for return on Ignorance. And, to quote Charles Darwin again, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Our job is to make the business case based on research. It’s our job to translate trends into disruptive behavior and to forecast its impact today and tomorrow. Doing so draws a line between where we are and where we need to be. Otherwise, an invisible line emerges that connects us to Digital Darwinism.

The End of Business As Usual” on Amazon. #AdaptorDie

Brian Solis was a keynote at i-SCOOP’s Social Business Sessions in 2012. Watch the video and full event overview.