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the death of distance

Web 2.0 slashing the distance between firms and customers

Way back in the distant past - in Internet time that's the 1990s, when it was first becoming popular - there was a lot of talk about the "Death of Distance".

The magazines that published articles with that title meant that the Internet allowed teams within a company and between companies and suppliers to share information and communicate across large distances at minimal cost.

It was predicted that this would lead to global supply chains and greater corporate integration globally. The rise of sophisticated manufacturing outsourced to every corner of the world, including products with short lifecycles, and the rise of software writing, medical-scan reviews, proofreading, call centres and so on worldwide has certainly borne out those predictions.

We now live in the age of Web 2.0 - the social-media Internet, Facebook, Instagram, blogging, YouTube et cetera - and this has led to a second "Death of Distance", but instead of it being between companies, it's now between companies and their customers.

Many countries have already passed the tipping point where the majority of people get their news and information primarily from digital sources and, with Thai locations consistently being among the top globally in location-based photo posting, can anyone doubt that the same isn't true - or will soon be true - here?

As a developer and seller of real estate, Ananda would traditionally spend several months preparing a marketing campaign, then buy advertising space on billboards and in newspapers and TV commercials and hold product launches with nicely dressed executives standing on a stage. In the age of Web 2.0, these techniques are rapidly becoming obsolete. People now get their information from other people via social and shared media instead of professionally prepared media.

The young now spend more time watching videos on the Internet than they do watching TV, and the biggest star on YouTube isn't Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, it's a young Swedish man who posts short videos under the username PewDiePie. His videos get more than 1.5 billion views a year, and the videos are of him talking about games he likes.

No slick production values, no corporate marketing, just genuine interest in what he's doing and authenticity. Most of the most viewed YouTube video "stars" are the same, and very few professionally produced videos are gaining the top viewing figures.

This is an indication of the speed with which the traditional methods that corporations use to communicate with their customers are becoming obsolete. Customers expect to be much closer to the companies they buy from than before, and they expect that the relationship will be much more interactive - and they expect it to be instant.

How to do this isn't easy or clear. Our latest marketing event wasn't a slick TV commercial or newspaper ad campaign, but a meeting with the leading bloggers on real estate in Thailand. And we didn't stand onstage and give them a presentation; we sat among them and talked to them instead.

We wanted to know what they were interested in and how we could improve the two-way communication. We closed the distance between them and the company.

It's still very early days, but already our Facebook page is our primary marketing method and direct communication with customers through our Ananda Members Club is our leading source of buyers.

Even a business as traditional as real-estate development is already seeing the results of this "Death of Distance" as company and customers become ever-closer together with increasingly direct and reciprocal communication.

Companies that fail to adapt to this new reality are unlikely to win customers.


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