The Consumerization of IT

By Chris Gonsalves  |  Posted 2008-02-08 Print this article Print

Is your business ready for Generation V? Baseline looks at how learning the personal, behavioral traits of multiple, online personas will be important to the future of business-to-consumer strategies and practices.

The Generation V movement is a by-product of what Garther terms “the consumerization of IT,” which combines affordable hardware and consumer-oriented Internet services with the growing desire among users to get involved in highly participative online interaction.

Sarner says the concept of Generation V came to him while trying describe the cultural shift driving the explosive growth of online communities. “What is it about the human condition that is drawing us to spend so much time online? What is the psychological draw?” Sarner wondered. “And more importantly for us, what does this trend mean for businesses?”

The motivation for online interaction can be found in Abraham Maslow’s famous "Theory of Human Motivation," Sarner says. In 1943 Maslow ranked human needs from most basic to most complex. Once fundamental needs such as food, clothing and shelter are met, people seek things like love, belonging and, ultimately, self actualization. Online communities satisfy such higher-level human needs for folks who often can’t find belonging and self actualization in the real world.

“Is this a fad? No way. The drivers are too real, too human,” he says. “The Web is a more and more immersive environment. People are drawn because it appeals to man’s innate nature to fulfill self actualization.

“What I tell businesses is that so many people are spending so much time online completing real life functions that if you are not part of that conversation, you are not relevant,” he adds. “Companies must figure out how to connect to and harness that powerful emotional draw.”

Within 10 years, Sarner predicts that the key influence on all B2C purchases will be the online experiences associated with them. By 2015, more money will be spent on marketing and selling to multiple, anonymous, online personas than marketing and selling offline. Companies need new skills and techniques to remain relevant in this new world, says Sarner, who urges CRM practitioners and other IT leaders in business to dig into the behavioral traits of Generation V; to understand how they express themselves and to figure out ways to incorporate this knowledge into business models and strategic plans.

Gartner is so convinced in the importance of understanding Generation V, it is making social networks and virtual worlds a key track at its annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Las Vegas in April. The show will feature presentations on web 2.0 and social networking technologies as well as a deeper look at Sarner’s latest recommendations for attracting buyers through online communities.

For example, Sarner recommends companies “look at your own products and services and ask ‘where do I fit on the hierarchy on needs?’ Build multiple virtual environments that let people explore and fulfill their life goals. The savvy marketer will create these environments where people can explore and be creative while the underlying reality is that they are driving folks to products and services. It’s about selling the experience.”

Because the rules around Generation V are strongly tied to the human condition, “businesses are really starting to get it,” Sarner adds. “They feel like part of Generation V themselves. It all rings very true to them. They just need to know how to leverage it.”

And the way to leverage it, Gartner recommends, is to:

  • Determine your company's role in providing access to knowledge, social status/reputation, and achievement or responsibility. Organize and target online products and services based on the customer's journey toward self-actualization.
  • Sell to the persona, not the person. Collect psychographic data to understand online persona behavior and its interaction with others.
  • Shift investments from known customers to unknown ones. Create virtual environments as a way to orchestrate customer exploration toward purchases. Focus on the influencers within the meritocracy.
  • Develop and retain or outsource new skills to attract, connect with, contribute to and gain insight into personas and virtual environments.
  • Develop strategy, process and technology around relationships with persona bots, as a tool of mutual exploration.

Even doing all that, selling to Generation V is not guaranteed.

“There are still a lot of potential pitfalls,” Sarner warns. “There’s often an imbalance in what we do online now. We ask people for personal information without offering much in return. People freak out. Other places have paid people to write positive product reviews. A health online community will sniff that out.

“Before you go building out your virtual world, you have to make sure everything is in balance. There’s a Yin and Yang that needs to be constantly maintained.”


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