Mark Higginson

How attention flows on the web


07 May 2012

In the online world, businesses have the opportunity to develop very deep relationships with customers, both through accepting preferences of customers and then observing their purchase behavior over time, so that you can get that individualized knowledge of the customer and use that individualized knowledge of the customer to accelerate their discovery process.

This is a quote I come back to time and again. That was Jeff Bezos speaking in an interview in 1998, well before ‘social media’ was a twinkle in the marketer’s eye. Yet the understanding encapsulated here demonstrates perfectly Bezos’ grasp on what makes the web particularly special and useful to business, whatever you may think of what Amazon and Bezos have wrought.

He goes on to say:

“If we can do that, then the customers are going to feel a deep loyalty to us, because we know them so well. And if they switch to a competitive website – as long as we never give them a reason to switch, as long as we’re not trying to charge higher prices or providing lousy service, or don’t have the selection that they require; as long as none of those things happen – they’re going to stick with us because they are going to be able to get a personalized service, a customized website that takes into account the years of relationship we’ve built with them.”

If you ever think ‘what exactly are we trying to achieve here?’ just try and elicit what ‘individualised knowledge’ you are capturing and figure out how you can use it. The rest will fall into place. This is what ‘social media’ should mean to a business. It’s entirely practical; a record of events that grows over time, tied back to individual customer profiles that can be interrogated at scale to inform strategic decision-making.

Note that this is most definitely not an endorsement of how Amazon treats its workers.

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