Closeness to the customer

Klaus Steves /

The last five years or so I have observed how my clients, who previously had no contact with their end customers and marketed their products only via distributors, are trying to get close to their end customers. They collect data about the customers as often as possible. They try to eliminate the distributors and to gain a better understanding of what the market needs. A stronger link to the end customers is the clear trend. The end result is that we buy almost everything on-line and the contact with living persons becomes ever less frequent.

I can remember how, as a small child I went with my grandmother to the dairy to fetch fresh milk in the morning. That was a social occasion. Grandmother always dressed her hair carefully and applied the light red lipstick. In the dairy they was only a single saleslady, of whom I was in fear and at the same time she fascinated me without end. She was tall and very loud. She wore white clothes, a white apron and in her short hair a white lace headband, which restrained her wavy hair. She also wore red lipstick, but compared with my grandmother not a decent red, but a shining, screaming red. My grandmother called her Schkobiska. What her name really was, I don’t know.

But it was never only a question of buying milk or curd. We were also seldom alone in the shop. In the morning the shop was the social centre of the district. One exchanged news, complimented one another on new clothes or received sympathy, if something unpleasant had happened in the family. I liked going with grandmother and always looked forward with suspense to what we would experience today. In addition to the dairy products, grandmother received the local news (hot from the press) and also contact with the social community, although we lived in a capital city.

My mother now orders much of her food on-line, which is then delivered home. That is practical, convenient and she doesn’t have to carry heavy bags. We taught her this, when she had broken her leg and couldn’t go shopping. But almost every day she still goes to the shop round the corner to buy something small. It’s not the shopping as such, but the walk and meeting all the many people she has known for decades (including many former pupils) and with whom she exchanges news or also receives and gives empathy.

It may be that in the near future we will buy most things from the Internet. Clever algorithms will answer our questions and pick out what is suitable for us. But for human encounters we will have to pay extra and the empathy will be sold as a separate service.

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