For many decades, technology developments have happened at moderate pace, giving individuals and society as a whole the opportunity to slowly adapt - such as the shift from bricks-and-mortar shopping to online retail - but the pace has increased and adaptation has become a critical survival skill, according to Brian Solis, principal for the Altimeter Group. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

We are now living in the era of Digital Darwinism, that is, a time in the evolution of consumer behaviour when society and technology evolve faster and faster - those that adapt thrive, those that don't die. In practical terms this means that it is no longer alright for businesses to be content with just having an online presence (for example on Facebook) without making the necessary structural modifications to the core of the organisation.

As an add-on, social media strategies have minimal impact - they need to be founded in a complete transformation that includes the culture of the organisation, the vision of the company, and the brand itself, all of which must adapt to earn relevance amongst a new generation of connected customers.

Many businesses are still resistant to embracing social media wholeheartedly - some don't see the value, others are unsure of how to really make these changes come to life. Regardless of where your organisation sits in this range, you can be certain of one thing - customers are evolving and so is their expectation of what is 'vital' in their experience of connecting with a business. Businesses must adapt - failing to do so means handing your customers to your competitors on a plate.

But what is driving this change? The influence of social networks, smartphones, tablets, gamification, geo-location and other disruptive technology trends are causing an evolution in the customer make-up. Today's customers fit within a series of taste communities based on shared interests rather than profiled by demographic information or expectations of what they 'should' like and want according to their characteristics. This is all being driven by connectivity - which enables consumers to aggregate in new ways, with other users with common interests regardless of whom they are or where they are located.

These hyper-connected consumers are more informed and empowered than those that came before them. More significantly, their decision-making process is different as well. Gone are the days when traditional media - TV, radio, newspapers, websites - motivated a choice. Today's consumers expect that the right information will come to them based on their behaviours online and offline.

Every app, 'Like' or 'Check-in' is an opportunity for businesses to learn more about their customers so they can in turn create a relevant and bespoke experience for them online. Of course, the key element here is trust.

Roland Fiege, senior director of social media technology for MicroStrategy, explained: "This only works if there is a trusted relationship between the brand and the customer - founded on permissions-based access and a mutual understanding of what benefits opening up can bring. We are not talking about stealthily taking data from users' profiles without their consent; quite the opposite. This is a partnership - the user opening up their profiles to trusted brands and in return brands providing only information that is relevant and useful to the user."

So, it is possible that this really is the end of 'business as usual' - and that we are now witnessing the birth of the 'transparent business'. The time for deliberation is over, and today's pace of change has made Digital Darwinism an unstoppable force: brands and marketers must either adapt and survive, or lag behind and die out.