Like Dan Heath, Vijayanta Gupta believes it’s small things that make a big impact on customer experience and brand relevance – but not always the small things you expect to find, where you expect to find them. Sometimes brands miss “tectonic shifts,” as Gupta calls them, in other industries that ripple outward and disrupt consumer expectations and behaviors across many products and services. Gupta used the example of Kodak, who, although they led the market with innovations in small digital cameras, missed the rise in popularity of smartphones – single devices, conveniently combining phone and camera.
Gupta then shared with us five global shifts affecting people’s lives and the way they do business. Although these trends have been developing over years, this year’s massive shake-ups have thrown them into high gear and brought them to the forefront.
Five trends brands must focus on to remain resilient: purposeful capitalism, non-linear life, customer ubiquity, privacy, and AI tension.
Purposeful capitalism. Consumers are challenging current definitions of capitalism, spending more of their money with companies who demonstrate social and environmental responsibility. In fact, 49% of consumers actively avoid brands that have a negative impact. “There’s a groundswell of opinion around the world that capitalism has not served the needs of every stakeholder,” Gupta said. Companies must not only serve their shareholders, but also customers, employees, society, and the environment – with their business models and their investments.
Non-linear lives. As our lives have become more unpredictable – either by choice or by circumstances – the life events around which brands often build their marketing have become less linear and more “multi-stage” in nature. Brands must meet people where they are, in the moment, rather than relying on outdated models of life stages if they’re going to survive. This may mean helping their customers – as well as their own employees – learn, unlearn, and relearn how to navigate the emerging digital economy, blurring the line between marketing and educational content.
Customer ubiquity. Geography is no longer the best indicator of who your customers are. Brands have traditionally divided the world into developed and developing economies – a model that leaves a large customer based potentially untapped (and underserved). Gupta warned, “Customers do not think of themselves as living in developed or developing economies, and brands shouldn’t either.” Income, rather than region, determines which brands consumers engage with, and brands need to be ready to serve them or lose out.
Privacy. “Privacy isn’t just the new brand promise; it’s the only brand promise,” Gupta emphasized. As consumers demand more control over how and by whom their data is used, brands must earn their trust. As Gupta pointed out, “We are surrounded by connected devices…We don’t need to be using these devices for these devices to be using us.” He cited the example of his smartwatch, which “invisibly” collects health data, whether or not he’s explicitly interacting with it. Brands that don’t respect data privacy —with even one slip-up – fall into the category of “surveillance capitalism,” which is an extremely damaging and difficult label to shake.
AI tension. As AI gains traction, we are increasingly moving into what Gupta called “algorithmic engagement,” or AI-driven personalization. Brands must scale and personalize not only across paid channels but across their own channels, so automated personalization makes sense. However, algorithmic bias often occurs and is amplified when the data used to train algorithms reflects the biases of the brand, not the needs and behaviors of its customers. Brands must balance AI with human intervention to ensure they are responding appropriately to customer needs as digital experiences continue to scale.
“These five trends converge at the customer,” Gupta reminded us. His best advice? Start with the human at the center of the experience. Notice which behaviors are changing, what is shifting in that human’s life, and how all of that impacts the experience they want from your brand.
Then figure out how to deliver on it.
- Sometimes the biggest impacts to brands are shifts occurring outside their industry, indirectly but significantly impacting their ability to thrive.
- Older models for how people live, work, and buy no longer apply, and if brands want to remain resilient, they must respond to these “tectonic shifts” quickly, meeting people where they are, rather than where conventional wisdom says they’ll be.
- Brands must remember the human at the center of the experience, even as they scale their marketing reach using automation technologies, if they are to connect fully with their customers.