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Time zones don't matter in the digital marketplace

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The bricks and mortar world is debating whether South Australia should change its time zone to align with the eastern states of Australia.

Yet the online world is “time agnostic”.

If you market a service or sell a product online, it’s a 24/7 proposition. People can access your organisation anytime, from anywhere and on any device. Who cares if a customer in Goodwood chooses to buy a lounge suite at 3am or 3.30am? Bank customers can transfer money at any time they choose. Parents can take a virtual tour of a school at a time that suits their schedule. Kids can play computer games with competitors around the globe, around the clock.

That’s the crux of the online advantage: customers being able to do what they want, when they want.

The debate about a 30-minute time zone change conjures up 1960s schoolroom lessons on “the tyranny of distance” between Australia and Great Britain. Just as that distance shaped the people of Australia, today the internet shapes us – and it binds us to the world. The tyranny of distance is a fading ghost.

For firms positioning for future growth via digital channels, the view is more micro than macro. Rather than tinkering with a system of time for an entire nation, their focus is on individual consumers – what they want and how a solution can be delivered in their “hot moment” of need.

This was made abundantly clear in recent weeks when Google released research that shows “consumers act on needs in micro-moments throughout the day”.

“Mobile has fundamentally transformed consumer behaviour and expectations. We don’t ‘go online’ anymore; we live online. We act on our needs in micro-moments. This shift in consumer behaviour affects not only mobile marketing strategies, but also how organisations think about their marketing strategies at large.”

From a consumer viewpoint, 30 minutes is 30 minutes too long. People want it now!

It once took a ship up to four months to reach Adelaide from the United Kingdom. Airmail compressed that to a few days, door-to-door. Now your next customer wants instant access to your product catalogue … and is happy to conclude the transaction now!

By all means, bring SA into line with Australia’s most populous region to ensure that global interests regard us as part of this important “bloc”.

But let’s remember that time is being compressed and that in the digital marketplace, time is agnostic and largely irrelevant.

Tim Boylen is managing director of Adelaide marketing firm Boylen.

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