How to Win Over the Customer of the Future
Business and society at large are in the midst of a remarkable change not seen since the Industrial Revolution. Boards and the C-suite must understand the fundamental scope and impact of the changes to guide their organization through the next 10 years.
There are two ways companies can view this change. From one perspective, it’s time to play defense. Automation is expected to rapidly erode job security for entire categories of workers. Increasing transparency will melt away the ties that bind together vertically integrated businesses. Scale-driven manufacturers will see 3-D printing create decentralized and fragmented production, making many traditional factories obsolete. Virtually no conventional business will be spared by this exponentially accelerating change.
But there’s another perspective—and a wholly optimistic one. We haven’t seen this degree of change or possibility for innovation in centuries such as we’re seeing today. But what will it take to win customers in this new world of extreme connectivity and automation?
To answer this question, Lippincott has worked extensively across industries to predict the changes ahead. The six fundamental shifts below offer a picture of the customer of the future and the world for which companies need to prepare.
1. A life flow. New models of work, platforms for sharing information, and constant connectivity that technology provides will upend the traditional concepts of one job, one house, and singular ownership of things. Optionality will be what provides stability in a world that prioritizes access over ownership and experiences over possessions.
Companies that are able to move with their customers in a decentralized, independent fashion will undoubtedly do well in the future. Convenience and flexibility will become crucial selling points. The acts of hailing a cab, visiting the grocery store, or stopping at the bank have already been streamlined to a swipe of a finger. Even the most minor interruptions will stand out.
These six fundamental shifts offer a picture of the customer of the future and how to reach them.
2. A transparent existence. The amount of data created by these technologies will explode, as everything and everyone increasingly becomes tracked and scored. Tracking each facet of life presents companies with enormous opportunities—but they must also be accountable to customers who will demand transparency around how their data is being managed. This heightened visibility will lead to a rise of ratings, and every brand we consider will have a score. Companies will need to be more transparent than ever, opening up their customer experience for full accountability. Those hiding anything will quickly be exposed.
3. The rise of the omnipotent individual. Products offered on digital platforms will be modular, customized, and democratized. As a result, customers will wield god-like power over each component of their lives, from their homes to their genes. In response, the production of products will become flexible and dispersed, customized to the unique wants of these empowered consumers.
Companies will need to give their customers the power to unbundle, customize, make, modulate and mix. They’ll need to go beyond a “one size fits all” approach and grant customers the power to control their own unique experiences. Those that master this will be rewarded handsomely for it.
4. An on-demand world. Technology makes the world more immediate. On-demand access and automated task completion will serve appetites for instantaneous results, and customers will reward the fastest solutions with their dollars and data. While customers will have less to do, they will have more to manage. For companies, it’s incredibly important to keep up with customers’ ever-increasing expectations for immediacy and efficiency throughout every aspect of the customer experience.
5. Exponential intelligence. Consumers will have more access to information than ever before, shifting who and how they trust. As a result, their decision-making processes will change from being a personal deliberation to a collaborative and connected feedback loop. Lippincott’s research shows that 62 percent of consumers would rather make decisions based on intelligent apps and crowdsourced information than on the advice of family and friends. Companies should strive to provide their customers with as much knowledge about their business and its products as possible.
6. Synthetic reality. Virtual reality and the real world will overlap, expanding consumer perspectives and opening up new possibilities in information access, communication, how people shape their personal identity, and the monetization and gamification of products and commodities. The companies that help their customers navigate between the two worlds with ease will open up new channels to connect, creating a business differentiator in the process.
As these six shifts unfold, they’ll yield a bounty of new innovations and value propositions. Companies and their boards need to think deeply and strategically about what these changes portend for the fundamental underpinnings of their business designs and value add to the customer of the future. And for those that do, something great is just beginning.
To read Lippincott’s full report on these six shifts, click here.
This piece first appeared on the NACD Board Leaders blog.