LOSS OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN RETAILERS AND THEIR CUSTOMERS
Plastic currency is a phenomenon of only the past 50 years. But, there was once a time where young family members would be sent on errands to the local store. The family’s tab would be incremented and the child would return home with whatever he or she’d been sent to pick up, perhaps with a penny candy as a reward.
The relationship between the local merchant and the shopper was personal. The merchant knew what families bought, who was a good credit risk and who was struggling. The merchant was trusted to give advice, suggestions, and guidance. The merchant and the family had a relationship, a relationship rich in context and history.
Then mobility happened. Thanks to cars, planes, and the subsequent mass population movement, those once personal relationships were lost. The shopper became just another face, appearing without history or family context.
Thus credit cards were born. Credit cards were “go-betweens”, carriers of credentials and established trust in a world of otherwise, strangers. Credit cards come from an evolutionary need, and indeed have filled that economic niche admirably. But any organism born of evolution, will struggle to grow, and if need be morph to escape the constraints of the incubating niche. So, credit cards today feed on the very merchants they were created to serve. Credit Cards are contending with merchants for ownership of the primary relationship with the customer. Credit card companies would commoditize the merchant in the credit card’s pursuit of “owning” the card member, and then monetizing that ownership.
The world’s come full circle. The power of the Internet re-establishes the world as a village. For better or worse, all information is known in the village. And once again, through the tools of the Internet, the merchant and the family can have a personal relationship. The merchant can become a trusted advisor and occasional extender of credit to the family. When any member of the family appears in store or online, the merchant, in immediate memory recall, knows all history and context relating to that family and their shopping needs.
RE-ESTABLISHING LOYALTY AND RELATIONSHIPS
There’s no need for credit cards to be interfering intermediaries; no need to be a surrogate for the trust and relationship role. Proper relationships can be restored. The intermediary of contact, the point of memory exchange, is now the smart phone. These communicating smart memory rich devices link the world and create the personalized village experience, once again.