In order to do business and market to the growing Generation Virtual population, companies will need to provide or connect to social applications to attract and engage customers.
By 2010, more than 60pc of Fortune 1000 companies with a website will connect to or host some form of online community that can be utilised for customer relationship purposes.
This will be vital in terms of gathering information about their future wants and needs to lead them toward products and services, according to Gartner.
“A key benefit of establishing a community is the amount of information an organisation can gain about its customer base, which can be used for short- and long-term customer relationships,” said Adam Sarner, principal research analyst at Gartner.
“Data can be collected and used for product development, customer feedback, loyalty management, customer segmentation, campaign targeting and individual or group customer satisfaction management. This wealth of data can be used for marketing, in particular, as well as an entire customer-focused organisation.”
However, establishing an online community isn’t without challenges. Gartner predicts that by 2010, more than 50pc of companies that have established an online community will fail to establish mutual purpose, ultimately eroding customer and company values.
To combat this, Sarner said marketing organisations will need new skills to meet the needs of Generation Virtual (also known as Generation V).
“Companies will be challenged with what applications to use, who ultimately ‘owns’ an application or interaction and the management of socialisation itself, from measuring success and mitigating negative interactions to sourcing and cultural restraints.”
Unlike previous generations, Generation V is not defined by age — or gender, social demographic or geography — but is based on demonstrated achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights.
The definition of Generation V derives from the recognition that these common behaviours, attitudes and interests are starting to blend together in an online environment.
When doing business with Generation V, marketers will need to attract online personas by creating multiple, engaging online destinations and provide tools for Generation V individual’s population to socialise and express their different personas.
By creating these destinations, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of Generation V. Marketers should provide, or connect to, online destinations from selling-focused sites and community forums to brand-aware, persistent, 3D virtual worlds to get customers to their sites and promote socialisation in the community. From there, marketers can lead prospects to products and services while gathering relevant information about their future wants and needs.
“To dive deeply into what different personas want, what and who they are influenced by and for help on predicting future behaviour, marketers will need to rely heavily on the social sciences for insight into the evolving needs of their customer base,” Sarner explained.
“They also will need proficiency in game design to create highly engaging, highly relevant environments to promote customer interaction. The chief marketing officer should plan to attract these skill sets today, because, in less than 10 years, they will comprise much of what the marketing organisation will look like.”
By John Kennedy