Making sense of the ‘internet of customers’

The online industry is awash with vacant sayings espoused by those out to make a quick buck, and ‘the internet of customers’ sounds like just another one of those. But Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff might actually be on to something with his newly coined term.

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This year’s Salesforce AGM saw Benioff coin the phrase, the ‘internet of customers’ during his keynote address that – it must be said – was not universally well received. 

We’ve all heard these hackneyed phrases a million times before. ‘Content is king’, ‘mobile first’, and my personal favourite, ‘the year of mobile’. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have rolled your eyes to the heavens and thought: ‘what are you on about?!’

But Benioff actually raises a good point here. Hidden among the corporate bravado was a key marketing insight unearthed by my colleague Lara O’Reilly who picked up on the ‘internet of customers’ remark. Namely, don’t forget the customer amid all the technology in an era of rapid change.

Firstly, let’s reflect on what Salesforce essentially does. It connects layers and layers of data to help companies improve efficiencies and it is quick to point out how beneficial this can be to marketing departments.

This is a reflection of how much marketers have to rely on IT to perform their day-to-day functions – even research firm Gartner predicts the average CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.

But in this rush to master the technology, it’s important that marketers ask themselves: ‘what purpose does this serve?’, or ‘am I making the customer’s life any easier?’, etc.

Too many times I’ve seen marketing departments implement technology for technology’s sake, with little reason other than they have budget to burn, or someone high up in the food chain says: ‘What are we going to do about mobile apps?’

But really, that one of the last questions that should be asked, definitely not the first. The key thing is to think of the customer first, and the technology second, with this tenet in mind marketers are on the right path. 

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