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GUEST COMMENT The Expectation Economy – we want it all and we want it now!

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Throughout history, humanity has invented new technologies to benefit and improve the quality of society and life. This goes way back to the invention of the wheel, through to the modern combustion engine and, of course, the vast plethora of today’s internet connected products and services. What all of these have in common is that they were all designed to make life that little bit easier.

As technology has developed, along with an ever-increasing appreciation for it, humanity’s (and consumers’) expectations have risen and demands have grown. Today, businesses are expected to deliver faster than ever – whether it is an online retailer delivering goods, or a restaurant serving food, or an online TV streaming service delivering the latest programmes directly to your living room. This need for instant gratification is combined with a reduced sense of loyalty. People are less and less tied to a brand, they are tied to the experience and service, and this means that today’s businesses now have a miniscule amount of time to satisfy customers’ wants, making success directly tied to expectation – or the creation of an ‘Expectation Economy’.

The Expectation Economy has always existed in some shape or form, however it has become more prolific over the last decade, with the generation often referred to as millennials. This group have grown up in a connected world with search engines and social networks to answer their questions; fingerprints to verify their identities; and pretty much anything they could want available with just a few taps of a smartphone. Indeed research has found that on average this generation checks the email on their smartphone every 36 minutes, checks Twitter every 39 minutes and checks their phone for text messages every 48 minutes. This omnipresence of technology in the lives of millennials is, in essence, what has driven growth in the Expectation Economy, as well as elevated demands and expectations from modern consumers.

Despite the challenges, a number of companies are finding success in this cutthroat, competitive business landscape. Take Uber, for example. Last year in San Francisco, the company found that over 97% of completed trips involved taxis that had collected their passengers in less than 10 minutes. Customers who had had to wait longer than this had overwhelmingly cancelled their trips altogether. As a result, the company made extra effort to ensure that pick-ups were completed within that 10 minute window to maintain high customer satisfaction. This is now the norm, and other taxi services are striving to match or beat this metric.

From a retail perspective, the Expectation Economy is driving change as well. Pioneering online retailer built its business on customer centricity, listening to customer demands and exceeding their expectations. Fast delivery times, a wide product selection, price deals, varying ways to pay, fast website load times – all of these things are the bread and butter of a successful online retail business in the world of the Expectation Economy. But these things all require a robust, advanced technology system to cope with website traffic, stock monitoring, warehousing logistics and distribution and so on.

The IT system required to meet the demands of a retailer operating in today’s Expectation Economy needs to be reliable and scalable to meet peaks and troughs in traffic, as well as organic business growth. At the core of this IT infrastructure needs to be a state of the art data management system, allowing for data to be stored, transferred, accessed and analysed quickly and easily when needed. Flash technology can help to deliver on these expectations, as well as cloud based solutions. This kind of technology allows organisations to support leading performance when required and retract back to a base level of service when not.

Increasingly, for all businesses not just retailers, they have adopted a hybrid cloud approach to meet their technology demands. Whilst hybrid does offer the best of both worlds in terms of the benefits of public cloud and on-premise, it can create siloes of data, so when adopting a hybrid approach a data fabric should also be implemented to allow companies to take a variety of cloud and on-premise solutions and ensure they act as one. It makes moving data and sharing applications across different environments much easier, so retailers can concentrate on meeting the expectations of their customers.

The onward march of technological advancement means that the Expectation Economy is here to stay. The goal posts are moving and consumers’ demands are rising. Businesses cannot sit back, they must continue to work and strive to maintain that the technology and IT solutions they put their faith in are ready to handle the demands of tomorrow. It is only that way that they will stay on top.

Grant Caley is principal technology officer, NetApp EMEA

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