If the future is automated, connecting to your customers now is more important than ever before.

In our last post, we talked about how customer trends have transformed over the last few years, and the way that we, as communicators, might need to adapt too. It’s been quite a journey for customers, going from shopping locally, to ‘big box’ stores, through to online and today’s ‘see now, buy now’ approach of shopping via social media.

A generation of customers have been primed by the convenience of technology to expect everything immediately, and they’re already making their mark on the way that retailers communicate with them.

For example, take Dash buttons – those little plastic clickers which simply reorder basic household items when you run out. Now, it’s possible to argue that through them, Amazon is obliterating any need for customers to choose between brands that they probably don’t have much loyalty to anyway – all in the name of convenience and speed. What’s the point in a soap powder company spending millions to build up its brand profile with customers if they’re not on Amazon’s automated click list? Thanks to the power of technology, choosing between things as mundane as different washing powders becomes just another thing we don’t need to worry about any more.

So what are the implications of this kind of automation for the way we communicate with our own customers? Does it mean that building brand loyalty no longer matters in a world where convenience, price and being on the right list trumps everything else?

Well, it’s clear that Dash buttons are the sort of interaction that suits a certain group of customers raised on the immediacy of smartphone technology. And, for a lot of basic household items this kind of automated shopping may well be the future – especially as smart appliances around our homes interact with retailers directly as part of an Internet of Things, and simply order items for you as they detect they’re running low.

But our hunch is that loyalty to brands – and so the effective communication of the value of that brand to customers in the first place – will still matter.

In fact, we’d argue that it’s becoming more important than ever before to know your customers inside out. If you’re trying to get someone to buy your products on impulse with a quick swipe on Instagram or Facebook, then you have to pick the items that you know your customers will love most, very carefully.

Automation is only convenient if it delivers things that people actually want (whether they need them is another matter). So it will be the companies who know their customers best, and who interact with them directly via lots of different channels, who will get ahead.

And those businesses who have strong relationships with their customers – and who deal with them as real people, rather than passive recipients at the end of an automated process – will keep them in the long run, maybe even through those times when the technology doesn’t get things quite right.

We believe it takes a lot of sound customer data, and close relationship building through great communications with your customers to do that successfully.