Geography still has its place in the world. Not long ago, experts were predicting that advances in communications technology would erase existing boundaries: cultural, economic, and even geographic. And while it’s true that a web of interconnectedness now links the planet, companies in the four regions of the world that we studied are often quite different in the way they use digital technologies to interact with their customers.
In Latin America, for instance, a youthful demographic has driven surging mobile use, with the majority of Mexicans and Brazilians using cellphones.4 The population’s big appetite for innovation helps explain why 20% of the companies we surveyed in Brazil and Mexico have already warmed up to such data-gathering tools as wearable devices capable of collecting customer information. In North America, the comparable figure is just 13%.
What all major regions share, however, is the awareness that the traditional customer relationship, formerly a one-way sales funnel, has metamorphosed into a perpetual loop. Customers are part of an ongoing dialogue before and after they have conducted any transactions, with changes in how they research and troubleshoot their purchases. By integrating mobile technology into service delivery, companies can continually monitor their performance, exploiting the insights they gain to create an even better customer experience. Ultimately, the experience of being a valued customer will be characterized by a seamless and integrated interaction at every juncture.
In North America, where privacy laws aren’t as rigorous as they are in Europe, the majority of companies we surveyed continually monitor and analyze customer comments in public social media. But a minority do so in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. But don’t think that Asia-Pacific and Latin American companies are digital dinosaurs in interacting online with customers. Long hobbled by an antiquated infrastructure of congested ports and roads that kept logistics costs high, Latin America and Asia Pacific’s new digital pathways are giving its economy room to move – into the passing lane. In what is shaping up as a digital arms race, companies are not only looking for ways to stockpile information about their customers, they are also seeking to apply it to their own strategic ends, either reshaping their businesses accordingly or monetizing it by peddling it to a third party.