You’re hungry and ready to eat. What’s for lunch?
What you choose to eat depends on your environment, that is, the context in which your desire to eat occurs: Where you are, what’s available nearby, what you like to eat, how much money you have, how hungry you are, and so on.
Imagine the first guy who opened a restaurant. Without any competition, he didn’t have to offer a very large variety of food, nor even make it taste very good for that matter, to win people’s business. On the other hand, someone who opens an eatery today in San Francisco better offer a fantastic dining experience; otherwise her business will crash and burn. Not only must she offer fantastic food, but her eatery must be open whenever people want to eat; she must provide a clean and welcoming venue, offer fantastic service to diners, not to mention delivery for people who want to eat at home; and she must do all this while still maintaining reasonable prices.
In today’s world, competition for customers of most goods and services has become fierce, indeed. Over time, more information and better technology have enabled suppliers to better determine their customers’ needs and tailor goods and services provided to more completely meet those needs.
At this point, all the cheap and easy ways of satisfying customers are pretty much gone. To generate sales in today’s world, the degree to which suppliers must now meet customers’ needs – “table stakes” – has become formidable. Increasingly, success is determined by those factors that are more difficult to define and measure: intangibles and context. Differentiating oneself from the competition increasingly requires finding new ways to address intangible and dynamic (context-specific) customer needs.
To attract good employees, employers must offer not only good pay, but also a job with a purpose that allows employees to make a difference.
To succeed, businesses must offer customers not only a good selection of products and services, but selections that have been tailored to meet customers’ particular preferences.
To succeed, route navigation systems must tell customers not only how to get to where they want to go, but which route is fastest at the time the customers wants to travel.
To succeed, content providers must offer viewers not only compelling content, but content that’s available for consumption whenever and wherever consumers want to consume it. (For a more detailed examination of this issue, see my blogpost, “What Makes the Most Popular TED Talks So Popular?”)
Increasingly, intangibles and context matter.