A paradigm shift occurred in society between 2009 and 2013 with the emergence of the 'Always On' consumer: People that are constantly connected via multiple devices throughout the day and crave instant gratification for information, products, and services that are accessible at a touch. Forrester estimates that at the end of 2013 the Always-On consumer represented about half of online people globally[1].

We are not in the shift. It has already happened. Since television became ubiquitous in society, it has always been the number one media channel, as measured by eyeball consumption. That changed in 2013, when the always-on channels (online and mobile) surpassed it. Between 2009 and 2013, online and mobile consumption rose from 29 percent to 40 percent; TV dropped from 45 percent to 38 percent; print from 9 percent to 4 percent; and radio from 17 percent to 12 percent.

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The trend is not going to stop.

Arguably this represents the most profound behavioral change in society since the family car became affordable to all. It has fueled the growth of some of the highest profile companies in the world (Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple), bewildered parents whose children developed a whole new language for communicating in short bursts, and enabled quality relationships to blossom between people thousands of miles apart from one another. It's difficult to pick an industry or facet of society that has not been deeply affected by these changes.

For the marketing community, this change represents a huge threat as well as a huge opportunity. Campaign-centric marketing (plan it, produce it, send it) still has relevance. However, marketing must rapidly evolve to succeed in a world where consumers are in control of when and by what channel they will interact with brands. Marketing, just like society, has to become always-on. So what does it mean to conduct always-on marketing in an always-on world?

Marketing no longer stops when marketers go home after completing traditional activities like planning the activity calendar, holding production meetings with agencies, delivering briefings, and reviewing creative iterations. Software automation enables these departments to continue sending and serving personalized offers to customers via web, email, mobile, and virtually any other digital channel you can think of (think ATMs for banks and slot machines for casinos) long after the work day ends.

It sounds great, doesn't it? The ROI from marketing automation is outrageous, but there is a troubling reality that has emerged as society has rapidly shifted to being always-on: Millions of consumers are regularly affronted and annoyed by marketers, because marketing still has a mind-set of driving good offers rather than fabulous experiences.

The most advanced marketing departments today are evolving their capabilities and value propositions to the rest of the company, from being campaign-centric or offer-oriented to being customer experience-oriented.

In the marketing software industry many still use the expression "the right offers to the right people at the right time." To be a great marketer today, that expression needs to be "the right interaction for this person at this time." You see the difference? The old adage assumes the marketer is in control. The new approach is to know (or predict) what that customer is feeling (or likely to be feeling), and make an intelligent decision about how to interact with them in that moment. The consumer is in control, not the brand.

Responding successfully to this new world order requires organizational collaboration and incredible technology. Customer experience for large B2C companies is a cross-organizational competency. It is at the intersection of marketing, sales and service. But marketing needs to be the primary driver of this competency.

The technology platform needed to deliver customer-experience marketing must be capable of calculating and serving interaction decisions within milliseconds to the channel in which the customer has chosen to interact. To the uninitiated this really is Star Trek marketing. Even being in the industry, I'm in awe of the power of this technology. Marketing has finally attained the Holy Grail: not only the ability to know what is working and what isn't, but also the ability to automatically respond, in real time, to the needs of each specific customer at the moment of interaction.

An entire generation of consumers born in the always-on world will be the engine room of the economy within a decade. Will your brand be relevant to them? Will your brand even exist? Too many companies will fail to properly address this paradigm shift in society.

Conversely, the opportunity is massive. Companies that evolve quickly from traditional campaign-centric marketing to customer-experience marketing will become the dominant brands in their sector within five to 10 years.


[1] David Truog, Forrester, Get ready for the ultra-connected customer to upturn marketing in 2013.