06/11/2012 08:07 am ET Updated Aug 11, 2012

'Like' It Or Not: Here Comes The Digitally Empowered Customer

Technology is constantly reshaping our lives.

Right now, however, a massive change is underway inside companies. In the past, the head of technology at a company called the shots about hardware and software that was needed to keep an organization humming.

Then the world changed as technology was used to reach customers through Web sites and social networks. Companies today use technology to connect directly with individuals through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other platforms. They try to gauge the likes and dislikes of finicky consumers and predict what trends are hot and not.

Welcome to the world of the digitally empowered customer.

Since people are exerting so much influence through Facebook updates, online searches and Tweets, the decisions about the digital strategies that companies follow are shifting to the marketing departments.

In fact, by 2017, the head of marketing -- not the head of technology -- will be the biggest buyer of technology at a typical organization, according to research firm Gartner, Inc.

The result is smarter organizations plumbing the comments that consumers share on shopping sites, or the images they pin to digital Pinboards, so consumers can enjoy the one-on-one service they crave. Think of it as social business.

For example, Lee Jeans is using business analytics to improve the online shopping experience for consumers who visit The company can easily see how well certain items sell, what's in stock and what consumers are saying on Facebook and other social media channels. The company can move products around the site based on popularity and availability.

Ultimately, that is what the melding of tech and marketing is all about. From banks to online retailers, organizations can provide one-on-one service, and surprise you with something new every time you shop.

Organizations always worked hard to get to know their customers. But what's different now is how much consumers are telling them in different ways.

With the rise of the individual consumer voice, organizations can't solely rely on traditional marketing strategies that target segments like "Gen Y." Companies are using technology to literally market to individual consumers, rather than to target vague demographic groups. They are constantly reevaluating their product development and reaching audiences based on direct feedback from consumers who are judging them by what they do, what they say, every step of the way -- from price comparisons via mobile devices, to comments on blogs about about a company's sustainability practices or new advertising slogan.

Who would have thought that one day huge companies would literally customize their marketing tactics and campaigns for an audience of one? Sounds like science fiction, but thanks to the ability to analyze huge amounts of data with business analytics, it's becoming business as usual for everyone from car rental companies to shoe retailers.

It's up to organizations to heed the call of the digitally empowered consumer, because those that don't could be left behind in a trail of Tweets.


To learn more about "smarter" marketing, click here.