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Recently in Singapore, I used a new app, GrabTaxi, to find myself a cab to the airport on a busy Friday afternoon. Five minutes later, I was picked up by a 65-year-old cabbie whose Samsung Galaxy was set up with GrabTaxi. He was very happy with the app. I was his 17th passenger for the day - and 13th via GrabTaxi. He said that over 50% of his workday today comes through the app.

Our conversation hit me like a lightning bolt: The reason he loved GrabTaxi was that it gave him and his customers control over their destiny and success on any day. By allowing him to connect directly with other people, GrabTaxi empowers him to make his living, relying less on an established taxi company, a boss, or the government to give him a job. And because he has more control, he is less susceptible to fraud, favoritism or interference.

Apps like GrabTaxi are part of a larger movement called the collaborative economy. This is an economy where people get what they need directly from each other. For instance, they go to an app like GrabTaxi to get a ride from another consumer, bypassing a traditional taxi company. Another example is when people buy from other people on a site like Etsy instead of purchasing from an established brand. Using our own customer intelligence platform, we've found that the collaborative economy is already huge: 39% of the US adult population, 41% of the Canadian population, and 68% of the Australian online population already participating.

Technology has given people choices on how to get the products and services they need directly from other people. The personal touch that sharing services and apps provide allows customers to trust other customers. The person-to-person marketplace results to something that is beyond an economic change; it's a cultural breakthrough.

The birth of the collaborative economy fuels a larger trend: increasingly, business is becoming more personal. As Bryan Kramer likes to say, it's no longer business-to-business or business-to-consumers: it's becoming human-to-human.

Coca-Cola provides an example of how business is becoming more personal

Now that business is personal, customers crave a higher level of trust. Empowered customers want an equal partnership with companies. They want to provide their input on all aspects of business. They demand to be heard on everything from innovation to current products/services to marketing campaigns.

This partnership demands a new level of collaboration. Since customers expect a more personal relationship, brands need on-going feedback that will meet their customers' ever-changing expectations. And to get this continuous input, companies need to develop deeper, more meaningful customer relationships.

In this new era of business, marketing - and market research in particular - are well positioned to lead the partnership. MR pros have the expertise, the care for the customer and the attention to protecting every individual's privacy, making them the perfect custodian of customer engagement in the enterprise. Marketers should work with MR and other key stakeholders to prioritize getting closer to the customer voice.

In our free white paper, The Six Commandments for Surviving the Customer Revolution, we provided examples of companies that are already doing a great job of partnering with their customers in this new era. But the reality is that most brands are not customer-centric yet. Maybe they need their own GrabTaxi moment of clarity!

Why you need to embrace new customer-centric strategies

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Peter Harris

Peter Harris helps brands build authentic customer relationships through technology. Pioneering customer intelligence since 2010, Peter Harris has led Vision Critical Asia Pacific to become the largest customer intelligence software provider, supporting over 140 customer-led brands, in Asia Pacific such as Telstra, Adobe and Cathay Pacific. With deep roots in research and strategy, Peter has championed the future of research and technology across his leadership roles at prominent research organisations, including AMSRS, APRC and GRBN.
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