The recent economic crisis has brought with it some harsh lessons for business, and the harshest of them all has been the realisation that the old way of doing things no longer works and probably never will again. Business strategy in the past has typically focused on strategies such as lean manufacturing and supply chain management to keep companies competitive. In today’s global marketplace, where consumers have a huge over-supply of goods to choose from, these are not enough. Success now depends on delivering products that meet a specific need.
Knowing what the customer wants
With the intense competition posed by emerging manufacturing powerhouses such as China and India, it is now more important than ever for companies to know exactly what their customers want, not just now but even more importantly in the future. In a world where consumers have an unprecedented level of choice the successful companies will be those who deliver products that people are looking for, and who do it before the competition gets there first.
To achieve this a business needs to be very light on its feet and totally engaged with its customer base in order to identify potential areas of demand that offer high profit returns. Consumers are now more vocal than ever before and, thanks to the internet, it is not hard to tune in to what they are saying. Channels such as the social media are just one of the key indicators of what people think of products currently available and what they would like to see in the future.
Understanding and identifying public demand calls for a variety of sophisticated analytical tools that go much further than the simple demographics of who is buying what and where they are doing it. Future business strategy needs to be built on more insightful data that delves into areas such as why people are buying, how emerging lifestyle trends will impact on the market and what patterns are developing in parallel industries. The demand is there already. The challenge for business is to spot it before anyone else does.
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