This week I was chatting with a client, explaining how today’s consumer has more power than ever before: More information, more choices, more flexibility for exercising preferences, and most especially, less risk associated with changing their behaviors.
It’s a theme people are already bought into — Forrester calls it the age of the customer — but it’s also a theme that people are too quick to believe they understand without grasping the kinds of changes this requires for a business to serve such an empowered customer.
To get to that extra level of awareness, during my conversation this week, I came up with a way to describe it that I call the puzzling consumer.Back in the day, a company designed a puzzle for you and saw you as a missing piece. They defined a hole with a certain shape, one that was convenient to them based on the analog tools they had, the historic mindset of their industry and so on. Then the company invited you to reshape yourself to fit that hole.And you did, we all did.
To use a retail example, we heard about a store like Circuit City, we figured out where it was located, looked up a phone number to call and find out when the store was open and if they carried the boomboxes we were interested in (that phone call was always a disaster, but I digress). We drove by there on a Saturday morning, parked in the parking lot they designed, walked into a retail space they had configured for their purposes (TVs in the back, to make you walk all the way through the store), and were ambushed by a salesperson who pretended to know a lot about the products involved even though he (and it was typically a he) was just reading the same prophet pamphlets that we could read if we wanted to.