Our arrival in the digital future
BY JOHANNES JÖRGER
The consumers’ golden age: a huge choice of products and services accompanied by endless means of comparison, and information on others’ experiences - all that in unprecedented comfort. What’s convenient and transparent for the customer often presents companies with huge challenges. However, it also presents many opportunities.
It was 50 years ago that the Germans followed the first adventures of the ‘Raumpatrouille - Die phantastische Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion’ (Space Patrol Orion) on TV. More than half the Germans who watched TV followed enthusiastically as Commander Cliff Allister McLane and his team plunged into strange new worlds. Momentous - the title credits read: ‘What sounds like a fairy tale today can be reality tomorrow.’ Half a century later, fairy tales have become true: shopping via tablet or smart phone has long become completely normal. But: it is exactly the things that customers take delight in which present entrepreneurs working between companies operating internationally that penetrate the local market digitally, with huge challenges. However, it is also true that there have never been so many possibilities for companies on one hand, to operate collaboratively and on the other to have such close customer contact. The recipe for success sounds simple: concentration on the product, efficiency within manufacturing and communication, support from specialised service providers and having the customer in the foreground.
The digital world is now influencing our daily life 50 years after spaceship Orion emerged. It pervades almost every area of our daily life, our private as well as business life. Let’s look closer at the daily routine of a potential customer: in the morning the smartphone rings, a first glance at the email inbox and iMessage text message centre, WhatsApp and Facebook. After showering and during breakfast, a glance is thrown intermittently at the current news. Further messages follow during the drive into the office, friends and colleagues are now active - especially in the office. Routine work on the computer, the routine quick click on an offer. The classic TV evening which rounds up a hard day’s work for many, is water under the bridge. Often it’s the current IP-based TV programme that is watched. The smartphone and tablet are there too, communication with friends is in the foreground here mostly, but often also research for the next holiday, purchasing a new dress or chic shoes. Even ordering a pizza takes place via smartphone, however not with a call, but a digital order. Online - anytime, anywhere. The potential customer doesn’t find himself in a volatile state of aggregateness. He leaves his trace upon every click on a website or advert. And when he subscribes to a newsletter of course, and definitely when he orders a catalogue or product. Experts analyse the traces left behind by internet users, and modern marketing identifies the most promising ways of contacting the (potential) customer. These means of contacting customers are called touchpoints, points of contact with the customers in the modern consumer world. “In the past, customers were able to be contacted over strictly separated channels”, explains Norbert Weckerle, Managing Director of the Pforzheim media company Meyle+Müller and the IT subsidiary apollon. “Today, print, online, mobile and social media connect to form a large network of touchpoints which have to send a clear and uniform message to the customer.”
In fact, we have come on much further today than just being able to analyse the customer’s digital activities and create online advertising as a result. Omni-channel is the magic word: in a best-case scenario, all classical channels of communication are linked with ways of addressing the customer digitally. The customer orders a brochure today and tomorrow he’ll look around the website - or the other way around. The company always presents itself and its products homogeneously and clearly. For apollon, that is daily business. The software specialists develop award-winning software and applications which make it possible for companies to use all channels of communication effectively and specifically. The services in the online media net system (OMN for short), which are adjusted to the individual needs and wishes of the company, are pooled. It unites two important elements which facilitate the processing and distribution of data across all channels enormously: firstly, product information management (PIM). That is where all information on a product is centrally stored and is accessible from anywhere. A sophisticated rights management system guarantees that the employees in the company can each be individually allocated the clear-cut responsibilities and possibilities. At apollon this always works on a global level, too, as the software is centrally supplied within a data centre. In this way, data can be controlled and processed uniformly, even in international competition. For example, there are many text fields for different languages available so the product can be presented in a country-specific manner. As a central hub, PIM works between external systems from ERP to the online shop. This works so well that The Group of Analysts gave the OMN PIM best rating in the category solution approach and integration (this can be referenced in the current Market Performance Wheel Q4/2015).
The second essential element of the OMN is media asset management (MAM). In short, this ensures that the product can be presented specifically for the channel for every purpose. Whether catalogue, banner ad or online shop - nothing is impossible. Norbert Weckerle is proud: “The rating from the Group of Analysts confirms the excellent performance of our system and reinforces our claim to be one of the leading systems on the market.” Both the software solutions mentioned are particularly effective when used together. For example, the Arabic issue of the catalogue shows different photos than the German online shop. What sounds like ‘tomorrow’s fairytale’ is the here and now for apollon. All this with the aim of offering the customer a unique experience, which accompanies him and makes a difference from the first glance and increased interest right up to purchase - along the entire journey within the modern consumer world. Additional modules complete the range of functions: “With the modular construction we are in the position to offer companies optimum, intelligent and individually configured software for all requirements within omni-channel marketing”, adds Weckerle. Fascinating - just like the big fish in the Starlight Casino, which Commander McLane dances in front of with Lieutenant Tamara Jagellovsk. We have arrived in the day after tomorrow, and the development continues.
The apollon GmbH+Co. KG offers integrated and holistic solutions for requirements in the areas of product data management, cross-media publishing, omni-channel commerce and online marketing.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q1 2016. Picture credit © vchal / Shutterstock