Globalization & Technology: Embrace Tomorrow’s Strategies

You are an aggressive, successful business leader. You have extensive experience in your category. Customers are your highest priority. You have a disciplined strategic plan in place. Yesterday, this was enough to assure your continued success. Today, it is not.

Globalization and technology are driving change in every business sector at a velocity never before experienced. Moreover, most of these changes are completely beyond any business leader’s control.

This is today’s business reality and it mandates that you change and keep changing how your business thinks and works before these dual engines-of-change force you to change, before your business loses its momentum, and before competition leaps ahead of your company or brand.

Here’s why you have no control over today’s geopolitical events.

Cartels, cabals, speculators, and organized crime as well as conventional global market forces — more than ever before — manipulate commodity price and availability. Of the all-too-many examples of this unfortunate trend, the following illustration underscores the challenges associated with the global commodity market. China possesses over ninety percent of rare earth metals used in the manufacture of a host of technologies from smart phones to smart bombs and electric car batteries to wind turbines. In each of the last three years, China reduced the amount of export of rare earths causing a steep price increase and triggering a costly disruption of delivery of this precious commodity to businesses throughout the world.

Industrial, agricultural, and mineral disasters such as the nuclear devastation in Japan, the severe crop damage in coffee-growing countries, the monumental oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the horrific Chilean mine explosion, and the global air traffic problems that resulted from the volcano eruptions in Iceland seriously impaired global supply chains and harmed the bottom lines of all-too-many businesses.

Political discord, governmental upheavals, rebellions, nationalization of resources and industries, terrorists, and wars are — more abruptly than ever before — threatening or destroying what once seemed like secure financial investments in nations such as Libya, Venezuela, Iran, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Mexico, and a host of other promising locations around the globe.

Global currency fluctuations, unforeseen credit crises, and economic stagnation have become increasingly severe and unpredictably enduring. Today, businesses must deal with sudden changes in the value of a broad range of currencies, rather than a handful of historically dominant currencies. The extreme fluidity in the valuation of imported and exported goods, services, and components is equally difficult. Moreover, urgent financial challenges from within and far beyond their home turf threaten businesses everywhere. Profligate economic policies, inflation, deflation, and credit crunches are no longer restricted to developing countries — these fundamental economic problems are inflicting damage on developed countries such as Spain, Ireland, Greece, and Portugal as well as the three global economic engines — China, Japan, and the U.S.

Here’s why you have lost control over today’s customers:

As we have all witnessed, people in enormous numbers, are crowding into the city centers of numerous nations around the world to demand a more promising personal future and an improved governmental experience. Their empowerment has been facilitated by newer, faster, more powerful, and more agile technology. Smart phones, email, and social media have enabled their connectivity with citizens of like minds and similar ambitions in distant lands.

In a similar context, customers in the marketplaces of every developed nation have been empowered and facilitated by rapid innovation in an ever-broader variety of technologies. These buying publics are demanding an improved purchasing experience from vendors and marketers of products and services in every segment of commerce.

The profound transformation of customer purchasing behavior is irreversible because it is driven by the high velocity of technologic development. Moreover, this universal behavioral change is accelerating because technologic innovation is intensifying, as illustrated by the contacting timeline of key technical introductions below:

  • 16 years ago: internet commercialized
  • 15 years ago: first mobile phone with internet connectivity
  • 13 years ago: Google named the search engine of choice by PC magazine
  • 10 years ago: Blackberry launched
  • 7 years ago: Facebook launched
  • 5 years ago: Twitter launched
  • 4 years ago: iPhone, the first of the smart phones, introduced
  • 3 years ago: Groupon introduced
  • 1 year ago: 17 million smart tablets sold — estimated that 100 + million by 2014
  • Every 60 seconds (so it seems): new apps, tailored to users’ specific needs created

To sustain your business success in today’s rapidly evolving, global, ultra-high-tech environment — a confluence of marketplace issues that you cannot influence or control, you must focus all your human and financial resources on the single most important component of your customer offering — one that you can completely control: your customers’ purchasing experience.

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What follows are four fundamental changes that will enable your business to deliver a consistent, positive, memorable, and enduring customer purchasing experience:

  1. Acknowledge that your prospects and customers have a wide choice of sellers in your category — develop a comprehensive strategic plan to differentiate your brand or company and implement the plan with rigor and discipline. You don’t have to be bigger or better than competition, but you do have to be different.
  2. Accept the certainty that “customer loyalty,” after a long, persistent decline, is no longer a factor in purchase decisions and realize that many customers no longer care where or from whom they buy — align your entire organization to assure that your firm is relentlessly creating “customer preference” for your brand or company. In a world without customer loyalty, you can still be 1st choice.
  3. Understand the new-found knowledge, determination, and empowerment of your prospects and customers — train your organization to respect, engage, and secure these confident “new experts.” You can influence your customer’s entire “purchase experience” with your firm, or as all-too-many companies do, let the experience “just happen”.
  4. Recognize that converting customers into repeat buyers, advocates, and referrals is essential to enduring, profitable growth — establish and monitor metrics to enforce continuous improvement in conversion at every “decisive customer moment.” Stop costly customer churn and optimize profits by ensuring consistent conversion and retention.

Get out in front of the turbulent wakes of globalization and technology — embrace tomorrow’s strategies today!

Robert H. Bloom is the U.S. Chairman and CEO of Publicis Worldwide, where has helped craft and implement the growth strategies of some of the world’s largest companies and brands, including BMW, L’Oréal, Nestlé, Southwest Airlines, T-Mobile, and Novartis’ Theraflu and Triaminic. Bloom is author of the new book The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers At Their 4 Decisive Moments, (