In the biography Titan, Ron Chernow tells the story of John D. Rockefeller, the man who built Standard Oil of Ohio in the late 19th century. Before Rockefeller, people in the United States relied on wood for cooking and heat, and whale oil for light. These materials were expensive to extract and inefficient for generating power. In contrast, petroleum products were easily and cheaply obtained. Chernow argues that the emergence of the railroad allowed industrialists to transport goods on a national level. Until the railroad tracks were laid across America, items could be manufactured and sold to the local consumer. With the advent of the railroad, oil, drilled and refined in Pennsylvania, could be sold and transported across long distances. Hence, Standard Oil of Ohio, by controlling the railroads, could monopolize the petroleum industry.
Similar to this ‘sales revolution’ made possible by the railroad in Rockefeller’s time, the emergence of the 20th century internet created a market for items that were heretofore distributed nationally to be sold to wholesale and retail consumers overseas. The market was once again expanded, increasing from the confines of national sales to an international market.
Today, a merchant promoting the sale of his product on the internet can take advantage of another commercial revolution taking place in the in the 21st century. Companies can market to potential buyers on their mobile devices.
Until recently, a marketer had to market a product online by hoping that the consumer would sit down at his PC, surf the net, and see the product being offered. But today, as consumers have their cell phones in hand, the marketer can target the customer and achieve instant results. An added bonus that accrues to the salesperson is his ability to track users based on GPS location. In addition, mobile devices allow for a more personal interaction through direct dialogue via SMS. By targeting ads to the mobile phone, the owner of a given website can track a user’s response instantly, allowing the marketer to analyze and understand the behavior of the cell phone owner and to improve the seller’s standard of service.
Best of all, mobile communication offers the potential for an advertisement to go viral. Mobile users tend to share good content with friends and family, and they can to do so with the click of a button. This offers the marketer more exposure with less effort.
This all sounds good in theory, but does it hold true in practice? In fact, according to a study conducted by comscore.com, four out of five modern consumers – a staggering 80% – use their smart phones to shop. Furthermore, iacqure.com reports that 70% of mobile users took action and bought a product after a mere hour spent on the internet. This is three times faster than the same results realized on a desktop or laptop computer.
That consumers shop with their mobile devices comes as no surprise. In early 2014, CNN reported that Internet usage on mobiles devices and tablets surpassed that of PCs. CBS news added that 75% of Americans admit to surfing the Internet while in the bathroom, granting the marketer an additional opportunity to reach the consumer at time that used to be reserved for other activities
Rockefeller became a Titan because he recognized that a product – in this case refined petroleum products – could be manufactured locally and sold across the entire country. He expanded the availability of goods to a larger audience. With the advancement of technology, this trend continues today. The Titans that will emerge in our generation are those who take advantage of the trends and recognize advances in how their goods and services may best reach the consumers.