But certain pressure points have eased, thanks to new and much more powerful ways of conducting business on digital devices.
Jennifer can call up her favourite fashion site on whatever device she happens to be using and is greeted like an old friend. It instantly "models" the outfits she’s interested in with a simulated version of her physical shape and makes suggestions based on her personal taste – all below the price that she’s usually prepared to pay.
She starts shopping on her desktop during lunch; picks up where she left off on her handheld during the train ride home and moves seamlessly to her laptop in the late evening.
In the "old days" of 2013, Jennifer would have been mulling the choices between five sites for more than 90 minutes, clicking through an ocean of options. Now, the shopping has been reduced to 15 minutes, and she rarely moves past the one store that knows her best.
It’s tantalising to imagine how businesses could win greater loyalty, and more revenue, from people like Jennifer, by catering to her interests much more precisely and quickly.
Today, businesses have put themselves at the centre of the cosmos. The software used to manage basic business processes for customer management and order fulfilment struggles to keep pace with the implications of the consumer web.
It trades and transacts in data without understanding the person who’s on the other side of the screen. It creaks and crumbles when confronted with the volume, velocity and variety of data generated by literally trillions of real-time web experiences. Most fatally, it puts companies, not people, at the centre.
My belief is that a new normal is upon us. In the new regime, people are the centre of the cosmos. A new paradigm of dealing with people, enabled by people data management systems, will fundamentally change the way successful businesses operate.
How do we get there, and why is it so important? Think about what attracts people to non-digital experiences, say, a neighbourhood coffee shop. People know that when they show up, they will be recognised. Even better, the barista will start preparing his or her favourite blend as soon as they walk in to the coffee shop.
Today, with the rise of the consumer web, people are expecting that type of personalised interaction with all businesses. To respond to this shifting dynamic, companies need to build and sustain an always-on, intelligent awareness of the people it does business with. They need to profitably and personally connect at any time and on any screen. Call it the 'AnyX Challenge'.
One company – Amazon – defines the gold standard for people data management. With every click and every page view, the site creates a personal connection. Its wish-list function and user reviews presaged the social media revolution to come.
Amazon’s recommendation engine enables it to tap into a wealth of user and transaction data. With every return visit, people express a trust in the site by sharing more about their wants and interests, which in turn nourishes Amazon’s massive people engine with the fuel it needs to deliver an even smarter, more personal touch.
This type of personalised web engagement is no longer the domain of an exclusive few. All the components are in place and all of the capabilities are within reach for any company to follow the path Amazon has blazed.
Legacy enterprise software has been designed for specific processes – billing, ordering, sales pipeline management, etc. Businesses will continue to rely on them to support objectives such as minimising costs and maximising efficiency.
When it comes to maximising revenue and relationships with the people who interact with your business, however, People data management has the potential to deliver a system of engagement that continually makes sense of the flood of data from different screens and sources. It can redefine how businesses engage with Jennifer and all the other people who interact with the enterprise.
We anticipate a re-conception of B2C built on big data that measurably improves people’s experiences as well as revenue performance. We invite our competitors, partners, industry experts, academics and privacy advocates to join with Krux as we create the future of people data management.
Tom Chavez is chief executive of Krux