More than ever, with the constant development of new digital products, marketing and consumerism is increasingly divsersified and companies face a platform agnostic future.
It doesn’t matter how someone gets to your business, what is important is facilitating the opportunity for them to do so. Businesses can’t afford to not be where their current and future customers are. Businesses that aren’t able to convince themselves to open up to as many platforms and access points as is reasonable are doing themselves more harm than good.
Oils ain’t oils
Think about the petroleum industry, particularly petrol stations. Petrol Stations are one of the oldest living examples of a platform agnostic business model. Petrol station owners don’t care what vehicle you turn up in. They don’t care if you have a 30 year old 100cc scooter, a family sedan, a brand new Ferrari or a 10 tonne truck. It simply doesn’t matter to them, as long as you buy fuel (and some snacks) you’re the right customer. To them, the ‘vessel’ in which you’re going to consume the petrol isn’t their concern – they accept you’ve bought the vehicle you’ve chosen for your own reasons.
Carrying this example over, think about the ‘vehicles’ that consumers might use to research, evaluate and consume your company’s products. Consumers might use everything from various mobile phone platforms, the emerging tablet market, social networks and social media, websites, online forms, and all of the other various push and pull channels, such as EDM’s, PPC, outdoor advertising, newspapers, magazines, and retail stores etc. There are more channels than any one business can possibly be constantly across – but that’s OK.
Thankfully, fewer businesses each day are seeing digital, mobile and tablet marketing, as a way to dictate how people engage with them. Sticking exclusively with one or two technologies and expecting consumers to follow suit has all the classic trappings of losing market share and alienating whole market segments. Businesses that see the opportunity to engage with customers no matter what platform choice that customer independently made, will reap more benefits in the short and long term. Few, if any, consumers would purchase their smartphone with all of the companies they use at the moment in mind, while also making sure they’re all compatible, for example.
If your website, or app, is great on an iPhone, but not on Android, or Windows mobile, or iPad, or the Samsung tablet, or the RIM technologies tablet, that needs to be fixed, and quickly. Why? Because if your current, or potential consumers are having a poor experience trying to access you they’re less likely to try again in the future. Worse, they may just switch to a competitor offering a similar product with a more user friendly interface. Even worse, if they can’t access your business on any of the platforms they’re using, few will bother to tell you – especially if they’re not a loyal customer – and if they are they may well be more critical in their feedback, and may well do it in a public arena, like twitter.
Being across every platform is impossible
Coming back to the example above – petrol stations don’t open up everywhere, they open up in strategically useful places. And the same sort of thinking can be applied to other businesses too.
Businesses don’t have to be across every social network, or every new technology that comes along. But they do need to have individuals that are given the time, and the explicit remit, to explore beyond ‘what’s cool’ and progress to what’s useful and what can be tangibly beneficial to both the company and the consumer. If a large percentage of your current core customer segment are Nokia’s, one might argue that there’s no need to optimise for Smartphones like iPhone or Android. But that ignores the growth potential laying behind your next generation of consumer.
This can be scary, no doubt about it. The leap of faith required to get new social, digital, mobile and tablet initiatives off the ground, where no solid figures exist, can be a hurdle which may be difficult for some to jump over.
After all, if no one else in the industry is doing it, and no one is making money from the social/app/other access product being suggested, how does anyone know it’s going to work? Well sometimes you just have to try these things – toe in the water approach if necessary – to see what happens next.