Providers of third-party customer data, business intelligence and
analytic tools will shift toward consumer applications, eventually
arming companies with automated artificial intelligence, self-learning “persona bots” to seek out customers’ needs and desires.
The Generation V movement is a by-product of what Gartner
terms “the consumerization of IT,” which combines affordable
hardware and consumer-oriented Internet services with the desire
of users to get involved in participative online interactions.
The motivation for online interaction can be found in
Abraham Maslow’s famous Theory of Human Motivation,
Sarner says. In 1943, Maslow ranked human needs from most
basic to most complex. Once fundamental needs such as
food, clothing and shelter are met, people seek less tangible
things like love, belonging and, ultimately, self-actualization.
Online communities satisfy such higher-level needs for those
social networks and virtual worlds a key track at its annual
Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Las Vegas this month.
Sarner recommends that companies look at their own
products and services and ask, “‘Where do I fit on the hierarchy of needs?’ Build multiple virtual environments that let
people explore and fulfill their life goals. The savvy marketer
will create environments where people can explore and be creative, while the underlying reality is that they are driving folks
to products and services. It’s about selling the experience.”
Because the rules around Generation V are tied to the
human condition, “businesses are starting to get it,” Sarner adds.
“They feel like part of Generation V themselves. It all rings true
to them. They just need to know how to leverage it.”
And the way to leverage it, Gartner recommends, is to:
Determine your company’s role in providing access to knowl-
“People are spending so much time online completing real-life functions ...
if you are not part of that conversation, you are not relevant.” —ADAM SARNER, GARTNER
who can’t always find them in the real world.
“Is this a fad? No way. The drivers are too real, too human,”
Sarner says. “The Web is a more and more immersive environment. People are drawn to it because it appeals to man’s innate
nature to fulfill self-actualization. People are spending so much
time online completing real-life functions, if you are not part of
that conversation, you are not relevant. Companies must figure
out how to connect to and harness that powerful emotional draw.”
Within 10 years, Sarner predicts, the key influence on all B2C
purchases will be the online experiences associated with
them and by 2015, more money will be spent on marketing
and selling to multiple, anonymous online personas than on
marketing and selling offline.
Companies need new skills and techniques to remain
relevant in this new world, says Sarner, who urges customer
relationship management practitioners and other IT business
leaders to explore the behavioral traits of Generation V to
understand how Gen V members express themselves and to
figure out ways to incorporate that knowledge into business
models and strategic plans. Gartner is so convinced about the
importance of understanding Generation V that it’s making
edge, social status/reputation, and achievement or responsibility. Organize and target online products and services based
on the customer’s journey toward self-actualization.
Sell to the persona, not the person. Collect psychographic data to
understand online persona behavior and interactions with others.
Shift investments from known customers to unknown ones.
Create virtual environments as a way to orchestrate customer
exploration toward purchases. Focus on the influencers.
Develop and retain—or outsource—new skills to attract,
connect with, contribute to and gain insight into personas.
Develop strategy, process and technology around relationships with persona bots as tools of mutual exploration.
Even doing all that, selling to Generation V is not guaranteed. “There’s often an imbalance in what we do online now,”
Sarner says. “We ask people for personal information without
offering much in return. Before you build out your virtual
world, you have to make sure everything is in balance. There’s
a yin and yang that needs to be constantly maintained.” 3
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