Technological Advances Will Mean Consumers Expect More Face Time

Social Media, Mobile Services Heightening Expectations

By Published on .

Steve Rubel
Steve Rubel
One of the realities of the modern era and the age of continuous information streams is that consumers now expect that their needs be addressed in real time. One of my former colleagues summed this up best by calling the phenomenon "The Baby-Monitor Principle."

The basic premise is that once an infant knows a baby monitor is in a room and comprehends what it does, he begins to use it to his advantage. Babies somehow understand that when they cry, Mom or Dad will come running to save the day. So they cry some more.

Savvy consumers are well aware that companies are listening to their conversations on Twitter and Facebook. And some are using it to their advantage. They know that if they're vocal enough and find a community of like-minded individuals, brands will eventually have to cater to their needs.

It's not just social media that's encouraging companies to live a more dynamic existence. New mobile services, some social, are arming consumers with essential real-time information and changing our behaviors and expectations.

Consider Red Laser, a popular iPhone application owned by eBay (an Edelman client). Red Laser gives consumers the ability to scan bar codes to find cheaper prices. There are countless other apps available for all platforms. As these tools become more popular, it's conceivable that retailers will have to empower their personnel at the point of sale to be more nimble in approving just-in-time pricing.

Retailers are already wisely responding to empowered consumers by dangling equally attractive alternatives. Macy's, Sports Authority and Best Buy (also an Edelman client), for example, all are aggressively promoting ShopKick. This new platform rewards customers with savings and rewards for using their phones when they are in a store or shopping mall.

The war doesn't end there.

Another new technology is LucyPhone, a website that lets you bypass one of the joys of life -- waiting on hold for customer service. Dial a consumer 1-800 hotline via LucyPhone, then disconnect the call once you're placed into the holding carousel and it will dial you back once a real human joins the call.

Lastly there's Google Instant. This immediate feedback mechanism is sure to alter search behaviors over time, forcing marketers to constantly look at how they pivot their content and ads.

Queen Rania of Jordan once said that "real time is the new prime time." And she's right. Businesses must aspire to operate in real time, or come as close to it as possible. However, this is just the beginning. Enter face time.

Technology has not diminished the need for human interaction. We still like to see who we're talking to and how they physically react to our concerns. The coming years will usher in a gaggle of new devices that bring face-to-face communication to our pockets and bring it back in vogue (Apple's FaceTime, for example).

The moral of the story here is that every business today must try to catch up to consumers by becoming one that loves living in real time.

At the same time, organizations also need to stay one step ahead of customers by leveraging face-to-face technologies before others do.

This combo -- real time plus face time -- is the new prime time.

Steve Rubel is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
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