Who’s In Control? The Rise of the Empowered Consumer


In recent articles, I postulate that there is a fundamental shift occurring away from manufacturing and service economies towards Creative Economies, in which companies that embrace information, innovation and the “cross-pollination” of technology will thrive. But it is not just companies that can benefit. Individuals that embrace, leverage and integrate new forms of technology to solve problems will be able to think differently and more creatively to address both personal and professional issues. And their actions will, Indirectly or directly, affect the economy and business landscape. Thus enterprises should take heed.

The emergence of what I call the Empowered Consumer is a major instantiation of this trend. The Empowered Consumer is a new type of buyer that now exists across almost every industry. This consumer has been shaped by the convergence of the Mobile, Social, Cloud and Big Data mega trends and is driving serious amounts of personal as well as business spend. She has used technology and information to shift the balance of power towards herself and away from sellers, giving her unprecedented price and choice control. This goes beyond the consumerization of IT which is defined as the propensity for users’ experiences with consumer technology to impact their technology usage and expectations at work. Rather, it is a behavioral shift of individuals concerning their expectations of their interactions with their suppliers and partners. The choices and competitive dynamics that it creates are a fundamental change all organizations must deal with in the movement to Creative Economies.

The Empowered Consumer tends to have the following characteristics:

  • Highly informed: She gets information from multiple sources before making decisions, many of which are online. Posting pictures on Facebook and following celebrity tweets evolved into gathering social recommendations, reading user reviews before buying important items, and comparison shopping online and in store simultaneously. She often has more product and competitive information than the company’s sales associate.
  • Mobile: Her mobile device is more important than her wallet and is always with her. She views it as a use case driven, always-on digital personal assistant that understands who she is, where she is and what she wants.  She uses it to get information, make decisions and complete tasks wherever she is and whenever he wants.
  • Loyal: She can be loyal but only if she perceives her loyalty is rewarded. While value conscious, time and respect are also a precious commodity. Understanding who she is and how she purchases across a brand’s offerings and channels (mobile, online, in store) is expected, as are services that are tailored to her.
  • Hands-on: She can and will create her own user experience by picking best of breed cloud services or going peer-to-peer if brands or even her employer fail to satisfy. She uses Amazon Prime and/or Google Shopping Express, moves files at work and home with Dropbox, and has almost cut out her local cable provider by using over the top services.
  • Global: She is not particular to the USA and, in fact, may be more prevalent in nations with higher smartphone adoption. She does, however, expect her payment and banking options to extend beyond borders and be seamless. While she is sensitive to extra fees, she likely has not yet started truly replacing credit cards with purely digital options or bitcoin.

What can organizations do to adapt to and take advantage, if they have not already? I have found that while there are certainly differences by vertical and, most progressive companies are aligning their investments to the following common themes:

EC TrendsSource: Centerview Capital enterprise interviews

The following are specific technology areas that support the aforementioned themes and are the focus of increased investment:

EC Tech

Source: Centerview Capital research

Whether she is choosing retail goods, IT services, or even employers, the Empowered Consumer is firmly in the driver seat. Enterprises have to view their customers and their employees in a new light. As Stephen Denning states, “globalization and the shift in power in the marketplace from seller to buyer have put the customer in charge.” Companies should take heed and tailor their investments and services to not just play catch-up, but to make serving the Empowered Consumer an opportunity to actually leapfrog their competition.



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