On the trail of the customer


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 1 2017)

Digitalisation has not only turned our everyday lives upside-down, it has also extensively revolutionised commerce. Developments in eCommerce have actually strong-armed digital transformation. The boundaries between sectors have become more fluid, those selling insurance today may be selling cars tomorrow. Nothing seems impossible any more. 

As a result of digital transformation, many different sectors have experienced sustainable change. But to what extent must they look beyond their horizons and expand their own boundaries? Projections of future purchasing behaviour and customer wishes are not only subjectively feasible, they are actually accurately predictable as a result of complex algorithms. The Internet as the stage for a participatory community is just one of the innovative developments of the 21st century. Here, the focus lies not only on further technological development but also on the changes that have taken place with regards to the Internet. People have adapted their purchasing behaviour to the digital world and made technology part of their everyday lives, hence transforming the market into a ‘seamless continuum’ in the process. They do their shopping and banking online, but also plan their travel on the Internet. Even stock exchange trading develops its own special appeal when Internet reaction times are just mere seconds. 

Over the past few years, numerous new players have established themselves with services and digital products, and long-established companies have had the opportunity to upgrade their profitable products to include new features and designs. Presenting their products within the digital arena has helped transform mind-numbing price comparisons into avant-garde competition. You have to think in a future-oriented manner so as to not slip behind the competition later on. Constant Internet presence and information procurement offer customers a whole new way of approaching products. They expect a holistic customer experience and a visible service benefit. Digital transformation is ushering in the age of a new society. Smartphones have positioned themselves as the interface between the real and virtual worlds. Ever more company functions and offerings are being supported by smartphones – or are actually being developed especially for such devices. New communication channels, such as Google, which were irrelevant just a few years ago, today dominate marketing’s core business. The vision that is being created here circumscribes a direct customer interaction platform and seamless product marketing across all existing and future channels. What is interesting here is that this development applies to all sectors. It has become clear that classical eCommerce is good, but is no longer in any way sufficient, as those who wish to conduct profitable business must not shy away from technical implementation.

New services and products can tap into completely new revenue streams. In the past, sales ended when shops closed – today, there are no limitations at all. Unchained from time and location, customers can autonomously decide on the product and operation. But where do they get their information and preferences? Here, companies focus their attention on omnichannel solutions, which interweave sales, trade, service and marketing with the objective of offering customers an unprecedented level of comfort. 

As an eCommerce and eBusiness specialist, Netconomy is already able to completely and seamlessly integrate online channels into existing corporate structures. Together with customers, this creates a perfect link between the digital and real business worlds, which builds on the economy of tomorrow. From the very outset, all requirements of the entire process have to be considered and the platform created has to be adapted to the ongoing changes in the market. As customer needs and demands change rapidly and consequently new possibilities emerge at lightning speed, these must also be tapped into swiftly to serve the business segments of today and tomorrow and to prevent entrepreneurs from pursuing the ideas and opportunities of the past. However, the focus here will be on personalisation and interaction in real time. 

With ‘big data’, this futuristic vision becomes a revolutionary mission – whereby the talk is of managing and storing several terabytes or even petabytes of information. This gigantic collation of data makes it possible to ask the right questions and to receive the appropriate answers in real time, while it also increases their value and whets the appetite for even more data and for even more of the right questions. Predictive analytics make precisely these possibilities accessible, they are the predictor – a variable calculated for an individual person or a unit with the aim of predicting future behaviour. Whereas this used to have to be laboriously conducted by hand, resulting in subjective and vague predictions, it is today carried out using intelligent algorithms that calculate existing information in such a way that future actions can be accurately predicted. In the ideal case, this means that we know what the customer’s next step will be before he or she actually takes it.

These predictions are actually not new, as forecasting the future is as old as mankind itself – and has lost none of its fascination. Predictive analytics permit specialists in companies to forecast complex commercial correlations and to use this knowledge to make better decisions. The financial sector, for example, has been working in this way for more than 20 years and the aviation industry has been using predictive analytics to optimally coordinate seats and prices. We will also experience major changes here in the insurance and health sectors. Lifelogging, i.e. digitally capturing your life, is used to voluntarily collate and pass on data. Conversely, payback comes in the form of discounts and other extras. But that is not all: data on one’s own driving behaviour could in future directly be transmitted from the car to the insurer, hence having an immediate impact on the policy.

The list of examples can be continued ad absurdum and one quickly realises that knowledge regarding customers’ past, future and current actions becomes essential for the sales and profits of companies. The findings acquired, however, are not used just for the purpose of increasingly understanding customers. As if by magic, e-mails, apps and Websites are also filled with this content. The trick here is to scatter the message simultaneously across all channels and to raise the level of interest among customers – after all, one should have generally already piqued their curiosity. In addition to tailored product recommendations, newsletters are sent based on ‘real-time’ data. Simplified, the Internet provides cheese lovers with wine suggestions that suit their personal tastes. The added value lies in the personalised offerings that take a customer’s current situation into account. Because it makes less sense to send the customer an e-mail while they are driving than it does once they have stopped at a roadside café. 

With this, digital transformation has fundamentally changed the way in which we sell and buy products. And there is absolutely no end in sight, as maintaining the status quo in the world of eBusiness, which is subject to constant change, is tantamount to death. As the oracle of the present, predictive analytics promise to find reliable answers to questions that we probably have not even thought of.

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Netconomy is a leading eCommerce specialist within the Germany, Switzerland and Austria region and is responsible for the successful development and implementation of eBusiness strategies.

Netconomy Software & Consulting GmbH

Picture credit © naqiewei/Getty Images

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