end of an era: why customer-centric is giving way to customer-driven.

26 AUG 2022

Dragorad Knezi, CEO and co-founder

Dragorad Knezi explains how customer-driven commerce disrupts the carefully constructed purchasing journeys that brands have been building for years.

For the past two decades, brands and businesses have been striving to be ever more customer-centric, transforming their organizations and using huge amounts of data to anticipate and match consumer needs at every touch point.

This sounds great on paper, and it may be done with the best of intentions, but it’s fast becoming a dated concept. Part of the problem, if we take a less charitable view of it, is that it turns consumers into glorified lab rats, passive players who are unaware of the orchestration going on around them. Brands are taking every click, behavior, demographic detail, and attitudinal preference – and using them to guide consumers to purchasing decisions, largely without their knowledge, not to mention consent. Consumers may understand that marketers are collecting data, but they have little understanding of exactly how it’s being used.

They also have something else: a new way to shop that disrupts the paradigm. We can call it customer-driven commerce. It’s a much more fluid, flexible, and immediate way to shop and buy, one in which the consumer has more or less complete control. To understand how it works, we can look at a number of new developments in the marketplace and see how they are coalescing around this new concept.

Shoppable marketing

Shoppable marketing adds an element of immediacy and quickness to the shopping experience. Today, customers can click on an ad and buy in the moment, rather than leaving whatever content they are experiencing. While not wildly popular, the immediacy of these experiences is very important: customers can choose to buy when they want, without deferring the purchase or going to different digital locations to complete a transaction. This holds a lot of promise for customer-driven commerce, proving that shopping can happen anywhere.

Advanced fin tech

New buy-now, pay-later, and other flexible and transparent payment services are offering consumers both immediate credit lines and a much clearer picture of how much they are spending. Gone are the days where everyone needed to purchase with credit cards with hidden fees and exorbitant interest rates. Companies like Affirm, for example, drop both of those, and let consumers know exactly how much something is going to cost and when they will be able to pay it off. This is producing a more confident consumer, one who is able to buy in the moment without regrets.

Live commerce

Increasingly brands are connecting potential customers with live agents via chat or video. Done right, live commerce offers a highly personalized and informative experience. Just as in a physical store, the customer can ask questions, get immediate feedback, and request further information. All the while, a skilled salesperson intuits their needs and responds accordingly. Live commerce also has great potential for inclusivity, using accessible technologies to bring shoppers with different abilities to the store.

Integrated reviews

While reviews are nothing new in commerce, they are increasingly being incorporated into in-the-moment shopping experiences. One example of this occurs during live streams, where influencers can demonstrate a product, and owners of it can comment in the feed. This gives potential buyers the ability to ask questions of actual owners (who happened to be fellow fans at the same time) of the product.

While we tend to think of each of these technologies in isolation, together they are creating the potential for shopping experiences in which customers seamlessly create their own purchasing journeys. This can happen just about anywhere, from a live stream and a brand website to sports TV and even in person events. Customers will be free to explore and shop how they like, without having to interrupt whatever they’re doing or seeing.

In this way, customer-driven commerce disrupts the carefully constructed purchasing journeys that brands have been building for years, replacing them with something that is much more natural and customizable.

A final point is that customer-driven commerce is not anti-data. But rather than using data to predict behavior, it uses it to improve the experience. It answers questions like the following: What is useful in the moment? What are the customers’ priorities right now? What are the unspoken blockers and unmet needs? And what do people actually want? Brands can feed this data back into their more traditional customer journeys or use it to enhance the live experiences as well.

It may seem ironic that brands have finally mastered digital transformation, only to have the ground shift out from under them. But technological possibilities have often outpaced organizational change, and if a brand’s goal is to make things better for its customers, giving them the ability to create their own desired journeys should be a no-brainer.