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Meet the New Generation of Customers…Generation C

In this era of Digital Darwinism, a time when society and technology are evolving faster than many organizations can adapt, we must realize that customer landscapes are not only changing, they're evolving beyond our grasp today.

We often think about social media or mobile devices as the conduits to successful customer engagement. After all, that's where attention is focused.

It takes more than technology to reach Generation Y. It takes understanding and empathy. That's why these times are so significant: A growing number of your customers influence and are influenced in ways unfamiliar to us. How they communicate and connect, how they learn, discover, and share, how they make decisions, and how they take action are different from the generations before them.

So why wouldn't a presence on any one of the most important social networks or mobile platforms clinch our future relevance in business?

The answer lies in how we view their worth in the customer ecosystem. We assume to extremes:
These networks will either make us or they are completely irrelevant. The problem, though, is in our perspective. You are a small business owner. You are an executive or a manager within a small to- medium sized business. You are an executive with a global enterprise. You are an entrepreneur. You have a responsibility to not only your business, but your employees, vendors, and also your customers equally. To see them through one lens is, well, too clouded. But to see people for who they are and what defines them, that's where the future of business and relevance begins.

How is this different from the consumers whom you've known over the years? For starters, they're connected. Yes, they're on Facebook and Twitter. But, it's more than that. Smart phones, tablets, ultraportable laptops, and whatever's next . . . technology is becoming an extension of humanity. But it's not the case for everyone and that's part of the challenge. Having multiple consumer behaviors to cater to forces organizations to think differently about this group of connected consumers than the traditional consumers they've gotten to know over the years. However, we have to look beyond Millennials or the younger Generation Z that follows them.

This is the dawn of Generation C, where "C" represents a connected society based on interests and behavior. Gen C is not an age group — it is a way of life.

Gen C'ers are not bound by age; they're not defined by income, ethnicity, or education, either. These consumers do not surf the web like other customers. They live and breathe in social networks and use mobile devices as their windows to the world. They don't learn or make decisions like their traditional counterparts. Gen C lives the digital lifestyle and unites demographics around interests and behavior.

Gen C'ers are different from any segment you've addressed in the past. What you think they want and what they truly value are worlds apart. Whether we get it or not, they're always on and to reach them takes an altogether different approach. And, when you compare the size of the market for traditional consumers versus Generation C over the next few years, one of the two segments is growing while the other is shrinking.

If markets are shifting, think about how strategies are affected for a moment. Over time, but increasingly on a daily basis, greater emphasis will be placed on connected consumerism and the technology and channels they embrace over traditional marketing programs. As a result, new skill sets will be, and already are, required to engage Gen C. As a result, budgets are moving from traditional to new digital initiatives. So, which side of the dollar or investment do you want to be on? The side where budgets are dwindling or the side where demand and resulting budgets are growing?

To Gen C, experience is everything. What they feel about your products and services now and over time is shared through these connected networks. They know that other Gen C'ers rely on their shared experiences to find resolution. If you're not proactively designing the experience they have or defining the journey that they will embark on, you cannot influence the experience that's shared about your brand.

As you align your business objectives and strategies over the next year, start with the experience that you want your connected customer, and all customers for that matter, to embrace.

Walk in their shoes.

Learn how they connect and communicate.

Discover how they discover.

Uncover their preferences and expectations, and more importantly, what they value.

Design marketing, service, engagement, and product strategies that add value.

Lead the journey today and tomorrow.

The chance that Gen C will find you through traditional channels grows fainter every day. But that's not as ominous as it sounds. Opportunity is abundant.

The only thing that separates you from connected customers is your view of them, their awareness, and the channels that they rely on for engagement and fulfillment. The rest is opportunity and the relentless pursuit of engaging, creating remarkable experiences, and delivering value. Now is the time to recognize how your customer landscape is shifting and to what extent traditional and connected consumers discover and make decisions differently.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from What's the Future of Business?: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences by Brian Solis. Copyright (c) 2013 by Brian Solis. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.

Check out the book's site, too, at: wtfbusiness.com.

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