Are You Ready? Are Your Customers Ready for Change? 2040’s Ideas and Innovations Newsletter, Issue 112
Issue 112, June 8, 2023
Wrong question. Are your customers ready? Is the market ready? Actually, the real question is a fusion of both. Is the customer base in your market ready to adopt what you have considered building and offering as you seek to stabilize, grow, and expand your organization? Put another way, is what you are contemplating developing something nice to have or necessary? Then add a layer of complexity to that: if the customer isn’t ready, how do you develop a need for your innovation? How do you ensure that its promise, benefits, and value are something the customer feels compelled to want? Then how do you ensure the customer believes it is something to adopt? Not to cloud the issue, but organizations can be super prepared, but not necessarily ready for market disruptions and seismic shifts. More on this last point later.
Customer Change, Transition and Transformation
As economic conditions have improved the overall quality of lives and technology continues to offer more and more utility to day-to-day life, a shift, particularly across the younger generations, has occurred where most products and services are considered commodities. We have often written about the dismissal of brand loyalty and the desire to meet utilitarian-defined needs and wants quickly and cheaply. Thriftiness has gained traction in the reuse market, repurposing what we no longer need to make good use of what already exists, as well as to protect the environment.
Products and services waved around like shiny new objects have new criteria to meet in the eyes of most customers. We have entered (real or perceived) a time of economic uncertainty where dollars seem to blow away in the wind. Many customers have had to downsize their expectations, simply meeting simple needs. It seems that everyone is experiencing some level of sticker shock and realigning their priorities to determine what is a necessity and what is a want.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the Dotcom Era where everything and everyone sought to capitalize on the promise of the “web.” So many startups were born in the stardust; so many companies attempted to run their offerings into the tunnel of light, but only a handful came out of the tunnel bigger, grander, and better. Why?
Strategy is always critical. Strategy needs to be informed by a true understanding of what the market is willing to bear and adopt — as well as if and how the market is willing to change. Individuals across a current or potential market may have to change and transform their attitudes as they consider your new product or offering. You may think it is innovative, something that everyone must have and is truly transformative to day-to-day life. But just as organizations are reluctant to change or move along without understanding how to truly transition and transform, your customers have the same challenges with change and even transforming and transitioning across their day-to-day lives.
A Legendary Tale
Consider a business story so many of us are very familiar with, as the company touches nearly every individual daily. The company is Amazon. It had its birth in a garage early in the Dotcom Era. It launched selling books and a few other categories online. At that time, those online early adopters who were willing to part with their credit card information online and delay their shopping satisfaction while they waited for their packages to arrive were majorly male tech workers. Bezos knew this. He knew what segment of the market was willing to become a customer and he knew that the majority of potential customers simply were not ready nor comfortable to make the leap to shopping online. Instead of attempting to be all things to all people, he took it slowly, staying in the lane he knew would produce benefits. At the same time, he turned his attention to building an infrastructure that would be ready when the mass market was ready.
His business thinking was both slow and fast, at times a committed tortoise staying the course and at times the hare when the need arose in new customer segments and categories. Perhaps he was a bit bi-polar or may have seemed so to those who were watching the company change and grow.
The crux of the story is that we hope you see Bezos seems to be one of those visionary leaders who threw caution to the wind, innovated, and made the market change, transition, and transform and come to him, but that really isn’t what happened.
Society, the mass market, simply wasn’t ready to change. It wasn’t seeing the value gained for the perceived risk of trusting some web page to purchase a product or service, and then trust that one’s credit card information was safe and finally that something was going to get delivered to one’s front door.
Bezos didn’t mistake haste for urgency. He has a great business and human behavior sense based on facts. He understands that humans and the ancient history of business and what worked, simply wasn’t in the cards for transformative times. Patience, awareness and context appeared to have permeated his thinking.
We can all take a lesson from Amazon’s success story. And we can learn from companies that flame out despite what seems like wonderfully transformative innovation. Great ideas can meet a brick wall head on when the mass market isn’t seeing its value, nor are they willing to change and transform to adapt to the innovation.
Of course, if you are a visionary pioneer, you could strike it rich (think the iPhone) or fail miserably (think Google Glass). Risk is ever present, even with the deepest well of objective information, study and critical thinking. Many organizations have blazed the thoughtful strategy trail to success, while many others have imploded and are forgotten the next day.
Get “The Truth about Transformation”
The 2040 construct to change and transformation. What’s the biggest reason organizations fail? They don’t honor, respect, and acknowledge the human factor. We have compiled a playbook for organizations of all sizes to consider all the elements that comprise change and we have included some provocative case studies that illustrate how transformation can quickly derail.