The Internet of People
For the last eight years of my life I've been intimately involved in the science of how business personnel interact with web-based customers. Over this time I've become more convinced than ever that the future of business on the web has two distinct pathways: 1) purchasing/sales process automation, 2) hand's-on, humanized sales engagements. As we look ahead to the future of online sales, I see an "Internet of People". That is, a tomorrow where real, live people are available in real-time on virtually every commercial website.
Whether you're a large or small company, and no matter what the industry, it's always your people that make the difference. There are certain buying scenarios where you don't need a human (e.g. I don't need help from a person to buy a book off of Amazon), but for many commercial transactions I'm still unable to interact with web-based humans in a way that is additive to the buying process. This is a major shortcoming of the Web and a huge problem for 80% of commercial businesses who sell their wares with humans in the offline world. Buyers today start most of their pre-purchase due diligence on the Web, yet organizations are lacking the right type of technology to embed their people within the digital side of their products and services.
I began with a fundamental concept that, even in the digital world and particularly with considered value and/or potentially life-long services, customers buy from people they like and trust [see Covey's The Speed of Trust]. To facilitate trusted, human-to-human commercial transactions on the Internet requires new thinking about technology. We need capabilities that enable businesses to inject an instant human presence into an otherwise de-humanized, aSocial online business environment. We need technology that is an intuitive extension of the natural, human inclination for meaningful personal interaction in an online business transaction.
Developing an Internet of People means real humans can be associated with product SKUs, digital processes, concierge levels of web-based services, and transitional technology between online engagement and offline interactions (the so-called online-to-offline or O2O opportunity). Deploying this technology will help buyers (B2C & B2B) deliver authentic, face-to-face engagement and it will have smart memory so that relationships can be as short as a one-time interaction, or lasting many years and making it incredibly easy for the buyer to re-establish the relationship at any point in the future.
To learn more about the underlying concept of the Internet of People, you can download a free pdf white paper.