To understand today's customer, you need to know what factors made him get where he is. More than a simple day-to-night change, the transformations in marketing known as the "Marketing Eras" and the evolutions in humanity, cognitive, industrial and technological together were responsible for the birth of the king customer.
Before we move on to this timeline, it is important, however, to establish the basic differences between customer and consumer. By definition, a customer is a frequent buyer from a seller or store. They stay customers, they have a habit, they establish connections. The consumer, on the other hand, doesn't make these connections. You can say that he "is a customer" in some situations, but never that he is a customer.
In 1453, right after the end of the Middle Ages, with the Ottoman Turks taking Constantinople, the largest closed bazaar in the world was built: The Grand Bazaar. Perhaps the first commercial center where people were "fighting" for consumers.
In 1760, England began to pass through social-economic transformations, and since then, the industrial mode of production has spread around the world, and the beginning of what would become today's customer emerged.
With the invention of the steam engine, the growth of factories, the replacement of human energy by machine power and the exploitation of the working class, goods became cheaper and consumption grew. Among the millions of consequences of the Industrial Revolution is what is known in marketing as the "Product Age".
Fast mass production occurred independently of the customer for one simple reason: demand was higher than supply. Thus, companies found themselves in a pretty relaxed position, without needing to pay too much attention to the customer.
This relationship began to change around 1925, when the so-called "Age of Sales" began. Companies became focused on finding buyers.
Things only changed around the time of the 1950s and up to the 1990s, with the so-called third phase of the Industrial Revolution, or the Computer and Technological Revolution. The arrival of telephones in homes and then of TV sets, caused the "Marketing Age" to take shape. Along with radio, the gadgets were the primary methods for spreading advertising. In other words, entrepreneurs had a way to massively advertise their products.
From there, it was only a small step into the so-called "Age of the Customer" that began around 1970. As the products needed to be sold and advertising became more involved, competition became fiercer again and there was a return to the question of service excellence. The client, who had been left aside, now was seen in a different light and had to be won over.
In the 1990s, the customer took another step towards his throne as king. The SACs were started, and companies began to work with loyalty programs and rewards. Credit card points, benefits for regular buyers or for those who always use a service. Everything to make the client feel special and cared for.
The so-called ''relationship marketing'' came to the fore, named exactly for this characteristic of relating to the customer, listening to them instead of simply trying to persuade them to buy your product.
But even with all these changes, companies were still shielded in a certain way, they knew exactly the resources and possibilities of the customers. Interactions were limited, not escaping the traditional means, phone calls, letters, etc. The client was still restrained.
The game changed again in the 2000s. The personal computer started to be in most homes and the Internet gained a space never seen before. With this, call centers become contact centers: several forms of contact, not only the telephone. It is the beginning of the so-called "Experience Era".
The customer started to share information on their own, either through blogs or the first social networks. Thus, opinions that were previously limited to small groups started to gain space. Whether praising or complaining, there was no participation from the companies. What today seems ordinary, going to a website to check restaurant reviews or comments about a shoe store, was absolutely revolutionary at that time.
Obviously this movement gave the customer greater power of decision and choice, and the rapid evolution of the internet only contributed to this. Happy or sad emoji, gold stars, and the thumbs up and down that we talked about in the introduction of the book are very powerful weapons. The possibility to speak out and talk directly to other customers has put companies up against the wall.
More than just being up against the wall, companies have been exposed, and there is no way back. Choosing not to participate in this game by blocking comments or closing the communication channel with customers is a death sentence. So what is left to do? A smart choice is to participate in this interaction and put the customer as the main protagonist.
If, as we have already seen, mass blockages are capable of killing companies overnight, working against it and in favor of those who can do it is essential. The idea of co-creation, used by the kids in the video from 2013 “We are the future”, is precisely this participation in the conversation, a natural path in a scenario like the one we live in. Being united, thinking together to create and serve in a satisfying way.
Including the customer in the equation, as the main factor, is the key. Many companies already realize this, but do they act correctly? What will the future of companies look like with this customer in mind? Is there a future? Let's take it easy. One step at a time. Before trying to understand the future, let's look at the customer and analyze the details that make them what they are.