Customer Turned Dictator?
June 9, 2016 8:37am
by Georges Panayotis
In just a few years customers have changed visibly. Surely you have noticed, but to what extent? Steeped in the marketing principles of the previous decades, we are still trying to find our bearings, to try to break down a population that is increasingly resistant to any classification. The X, Y Z generational approaches are a reassuring way to feel as if we have identified, analyzed and understood them… Can we be so certain?
Not so long ago, customers were paradoxical customers, whose behavior changes with their desires and means. They have progressively become consum-actors, concerned about the significance and consequences of their purchases. Now they have become community consum-entrepreneurs, who create their products and services while they buy them. The sharing economy has naturally begun to ride the wave of the latter two trends while advocating responsible, shared, economic consumption and above all inventing products and services that the existing big companies did not think to suggest.
Marketing is changing dimension and running after new behaviors rather than being ahead of them and sensing them in advance. In the 90s, a major manufacturer of audio-visual products was proud to affirm: “You dreamed about it? Sony did it”. Today, he who can tell what the hotel customer is dreaming today or tomorrow is truly clever. Marketing is no longer prospective, it is intuitive. The customer confidently tells to marketers: “I use the product I really want, not the one you think I want.”
The boundaries between manufacturers and consumers, particularly in terms of services, have been dismantled. The same couple can, one weekend, in exchange for some cash, be an attentive and nearly professional AirBnB host to another couple of “guests” on a quest for discovery, authenticity, conviviality…. And these roles can be inversed the following week or month. The disintegration of the commercial circuit model is underway, and where it will end is unknown.
Today’s generations no longer know or no longer wish to accept the old rules. Communications about collaborative start-ups insist on freedom and an absence of restrictions. The customer becomes autonomous and questions everything. It’s no longer enough to be king; they dictate their conditions without worrying too much about detail. Georges Clooney may continue to shout out “What else?” to convince us his coffee is self-evident; but customers well start asking “So what? What is so extraordinary about it that I cannot live without it? And what if I prefer to share my cup of coffee at the kitchen counter with my host du jour, who shares his quarters with me?”
The customer is increasingly eternally dissatisfied, search for a dream, an instant, a sensation, a pleasure, often divided. Social and economic, philosophical and existential conventions, like so many reassuring boundaries for community life, seem to be dissolving. Good or bad? Who is to judge? Is this just simple transition or a mutation towards a new kind of society known as participatory? Too soon to say! These are all challenges, but the Chinese would call them opportunities that must be taken on.
Like active bifidus, what happens inside shows on the outside. Changes in ways of thinking will result in different ways to consume, get around, eat, seek accommodations, travel. More than ever, the marketing of tomorrow will be reactive, seizing upon each micro change. Whence the same need to invent a hotel supply that can evolve, that is easily adaptable, increasingly putting mind over matter without neglecting the essentials in the 21st-century customer’s panoply of needs. It would be a mistake to think they will give up their gadgets, on the contrary they will use them to express themselves, to express their wishes in real time. Good luck! It won’t be easy to manage!
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Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, 51, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly. The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.
Contact: Georges Panayotis
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