The cloud of the people: How buying power shifted from vendor to customer

Apple Watch on display in Shenzhen

Chinese customers check out the Apple Watch in Shenzhen.

Credit: Michael Kan/IDG News Service

My friends and I once ventured out on a 4x4 adventure from home to a remote but scenic rock climbing haven. As we neared our destination, we were surrounded by beautiful scenery but no convenience services. Suddenly, we encountered 7 flat tires amongst our 4 vehicles.  By some bit of luck there was one relatively close 'old store'.  It was a store consisting of shelves full of eclectic items and although the store owner was friendly, it quickly became obvious that the location and dilemma left us with only two choices:

1.         Call in a tow truck from over 100 miles away

2.         Get creative with the store shelf items at hand

In short, we were captive to what the vendor had 'on hand.'

Though an extreme example, it illustrates the point that being captive to what a vendor has 'on hand' can be limiting.  Before the advent of today's internet access, consumers were very much controlled by the sellers 'stock in hand'.  What a consumer could purchase was much more controlled by the vendor – including information, price, choice and location. 

With the advent of digital technology, commerce has quickly transformed the power of the consumer.  As consumer digital sophistication grows this shifts control from the seller to the consumer.  Where  consumers used to use the internet  for instant information  for price, choice and delivery they are now using digital media earlier in their shopping process for inspiration and idea generation.

We’ve become an on-demand world, there is no offline. Rather than digital business vs. brick and mortar, it is just business. It’s not about eCommerce, it is simply about commerce.

Growing consumer sophistication is driving vendors to transform the very nature of the way they do business. This transformation requires and includes technical agility to rapidly adjust computing needs, networking constructs and business policy. This is coupled with service orchestration and automation capabilities. Instant services that meet customer demand at their moment of need.

While this is vital for today's consumer, sophistication and expectations continue to grow and expand.  Tomorrow's consumers will not only want the instant services of today, but also a continuous relationship with the products and services that they consume.  The foretelling of this is evident in the wide range of ideas and products coming to market developed with 'Internet of Things' (IoT) embedded technologies. Great examples of what is coming can be seen through the delivery of smart sensors (such as personal devices) and smart meters (such as health care and financial services). These technologies turn a product from a one-time sale to an interactive service. A service where digital interactivity provides advice, coaching, guidance and results.

Such a level of sophistication will task vendors. Going from simple product search and purchase transactions to interactive requires advanced services. Not only will tomorrow's cloud need to be built upon the beneficial cloud infrastructures of today, but it will need to embrace new approaches for application and service delivery. Tomorrow's cloud needs to analyze and optimize for performance. It will need to deliver and turn data into additional business insight.

Tomorrow's cloud will need to anticipate a customer's needs, not simply offer what's 'on hand'.

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