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New digital customer tools will have a huge problem. Here's why...
The last mile
Internet providers often talk about the ‘last mile’ problem: how to get cable into every household.
They can easily fit a shiny connected box at the end of the street. But extending cable to every front door takes ages and is expensive.
Big infrastructure projects like this help connect us all and unlock new digital growth. But they need Big Bang economics, with multi-year paybacks.
Digital customer tools will have a different issue
Like broadband, the roll out of new digital customer tools will create new digital infrastructure for us all. It too will unleash huge economic opportunities for both individuals and business.
But rolling them out will have a massive but different challenge: solving for the ‘first mile’.
Why will someone download or access a new digital tool for the first time? What data will they access and share to get the value? How will they find it in the first place, and why will they trust it?
Like rolling out broadband, we can see the vision clearly and get excited about the potentially limitless benefits - but only once these tools are in place.
Getting started is the challenge.
A distribution problem
I’ve long written about the value that will be realised when people are given new digital tools of their own.
But the first customer applications and uses will be forced to focus on creating that value, fast.
About solving real, obvious and immediately painful issues in our daily lives. (Or at least giving us new playful features that weren’t possible before, and which can go viral).
This shift will only happen when we understand consumer adoption cycles. When we understand data sources and value. And when we go back-to-basics on the consumer's ‘jobs to be done’.
Only then will these tools gain enough momentum to have a hope of ‘crossing the chasm’.
This is a distribution problem.
For some, roll out will be about large organisations acting as the market-maker. Where businesses create new digital value for their existing customer base, and even enable employees to use their data in different places. For others it will be more important - and some argue faster - to start ‘peer-to-peer’. To first create value between *people*, in existing communities and groups.
Inevitably it’s going to be a mix of approaches.
But these first customer digital tool use cases are coming. And like all technologies with strong network effects, it’s going to happen gradually, then suddenly.
Regardless of how and when they show up, these new digital tools are going to form a smarter data infrastructure for today’s digital age. And like the promise of rolling out high speed broadband, we’ll see a whole new wave of digital products, services and experiences for everyone.
It’s going to be an exciting time to be connected.
Especially for these first steps on the journey.
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