Personal view: Phil Jones



The expectation economy


Phil Jones, UK Sales and Marketing Director, Brother UK


It was American engineer Charles F Kettering who said: "High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." Considering that he said this more than 50 years ago, you can see he was one smart cookie, going on to hold 140 patents.


Now, if Kettering were alive today, what would he think of an idea which within two years would lead to a business that is $20 billion annually in transaction volume and nearly $30 billion in revenues? I think that would qualify as high achievement. Welcome to the modern day digital consumable: the app.


Mobile device sales are booming, regardless of platform or screen size. iPads, iPhones, tablets, Android, and Windows 7 mobiles are becoming part of our everyday life, forcing all industry sectors to pay attention. Bringing with them a new level of pricing transparency, availability and convenience via the app marketplace, the smartphone revolution is changing and raising customers’ expectations.


What we are witnessing is another game-changing moment. Just as the internet blew apart the traditional salesperson/customer route to market for many resellers, bringing with it uncomfortable levels of price transparency that chipped away at margin and gave customers more power, so too will this new era of immediacy and transparency. The industry is set to get a firm shove in the back that will reshape its future sales model.


Customers will want to do business ‘their way’, whenever they want to, on the move, outside office hours. If they can book a half-hour slot in which to have their groceries delivered at minimal cost, this creates an expectation for the industry of a basic standard of service delivery. Getting worried?


Google’s recent introduction of its Shopper app is a great example of where this is heading. The app enables customers to snap a barcode with a camera phone and then identifies and prices it in real time from online vendors. This alone may see a customer decide to wait, rather than make a purchase. If the customer is making a distressed purchase ("I want it now") then we can all sleep soundly and retailers will thrive. If not, you need to get your game face on and get with the programme.


Immediacy is a massive trend. Both Groupon and Living Social are driving millions of people to coupon-based offers, ‘buy it now’ offers and line end clearances. It’s a great example of using the ticking clock philosophy to create a frenzy of paranoid activity.


Hoping it might all just die down? Think again. 22.4 million people have already transacted using Groupon vouchers in the USA alone. My hometown of Manchester, UK is buzzing with offers, accompanied by the recent proclamation that "Groupon is the best customer acquisition tool that small- and medium-sized enterprises have ever seen".


Ask yourselves this: is your business optimised for search in your locality? If someone was using Google Shopper, does your business feature as one of the results? Is your website mobile optimised? Is your store on Google maps? What’s the purchase journey? Are you using social media channels effectively?


If these are new questions for you, then you are already behind the eight ball.


My central point is that the world is massively changing around us and our customers have high expectations for us, so can we achieve highly as an industry?


Staying relevant is what it’s all about – being front of mind when it matters, in the mobile moment. Using the tools that are there to grab new buyers and seal new relationships. This new ‘expectation economy’ as I call it promises rich rewards, for those who get it right. See you out there!


Five considerations for new platforms


1. Develop an app that allows people to locate your business easily, and is relevant to the products you sell.


2. Make sure your website is optimised to be viewed on a mobile device.


3. Figure out ways to create interactions with potential customers, such as a live chat on your website.


4. Create a deal that offers an incentive for anyone using a location-based service to check into your store.


5. Look outside the industry to see how other companies are using these technologies.