With the world wind of changes taking place over the past couple of years in Cyberspace, many e-consumers are now asking themselves what they want the Internet to be to them. And, interestingly, smart e-businesses are making it a priority to listen to their answers.
I recently visited a site that allows its customers to buy custom-made cosmetics online. The site provides a list of specific questions for customers to answer to insure they create the perfect cleanser, foundation or lipstick. Customized design packages are also available that include the customer's name and the name of their products.
Not only did this company send me a sample of one of the items I customized, it sent me coupons, along with suggestions of ways to make future visits to its site more enjoyable. With this newfound online buying experience, I have discovered that this customer participation thing has given me a sense of empowerment, rather than a feeling of passive regret. The company actually wants me to tell it what I want. Can you imagine?
This company not only wants my business, but it wants to establish a trustworthy relationship with me: I can trust that I won't have a hassle returning anything, even though I created it; they trust that I will shop--and I probably will.
As a customer, this is what I want the Internet to be: A business portal I can trust. I want a level of personalization on the World Wide Web. Sounds like too much to ask?
Well, Chuck Martin, New York Times best-selling author of The Digital Estate, doesn't think so. He discusses the changes and challenges that e-businesses will face in the coming decade in his book, Net Future. According to Martin, it will no longer be about what connections businesses make with customers, but what companies will actually do with the knowledge of this growing, complex society.
Martin believes that companies shouldn't worry about what they are selling on the Net, but rather who they sell to. And whom they choose to manage and interact with their customers is vital. I hear you Mr. Martin. It's not about that one cheap late-night stop at any random site. It's all about the long-term relationship.
As society changes, so will e-business. "Simply having a Web site does not an e-business make," Martin says. The business world is growing at a faster and more competitive rate. The level of interaction is relentless. Martin says the Internet is still in its revolutionary phase. "The future of the Internet is not just about selling or an extension of the traditional brick-and-mortar business," he says. "It is a revolution. E-business strategies are transforming the future into one that emphasizes personal integration and customer behavior."
Speaking from the e-consumer's standpoint, I want to feel in control of my experiences online. I want confidence in what I purchase and whom I purchase from. Being able to sense the presence of an actual human being on the other end of my transaction, and not an irritatingly complex piece of software--that is what I want the Internet to be.