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2019 has been a year of ups and downs but when it comes to change, trend experts around the world are betting on next year being a big one for substantial shifts.
Not only are consumption habits changing (new products, movements) but new ways of thinking and circumstances are forcing consumers to rethink old ways and try new services. I spoke with Christophe Jouan, CEO of global consumer trends agency, Foresight Factory, about how brands can prepare for the year ahead – and for the changing consumer landscape. The answers will help you plan for your 2020 strategies.
In general, what’s the theme for 2020?
“The customer. There are three customer engagement trends to act on in 2020 that we’re seeing around the globe. The first is freedom from contracts. Customers have been avoiding restrictive contracts for years.” In 2018, 54% of global consumers surveyed by Foresight Factory reported having avoided tying themselves into unnecessary agreements.
“Consumers are seeking more freedom in choosing which brands to commit to – if at all. Increasingly, they demand convenient, immediate, fleeting access to products and services – with no cancellation penalties whatsoever. Such commercial arrangements engender feelings of freedom and control, which are essential when appealing to the commitment-wary consumer.”
What should you do?
From co-working to mobile contracts, less appears to be more. Rethinking how you charge/free your customers might just be the next big area of growth or customer satisfaction increase. Creating less robust contracts may sound dicey but, according to Jouan, if you are a service brand, you should be emphasising the flexibility at the heart of your offering. Why handcuff people not to like you, offer them the option for a flexible contract that protects your business but also gives the consumer power.
Secondly, Jouan recommends focusing your 2020 strategy around rewarding customers “beyond spend”. A refocusing on loyalty is what’s needed in order to rise above the hum of the multiple loyalty programs that aren’t delivering.
“Loyalty programmes that reward only spend-related activity will soon seem, well, sparing in their thanks. Empowered consumers now want more and more of the attention they give brands to be recognised: From liking posts on social media to visiting a store in person. As a result, brands are increasingly engaging the customer in a myriad other ways – from rewarding store visits to celebrating brand advocacy.”
What should you do?
Break your loyalty programme. Start over with what you know now and ask your customers what they want. Look at new brands like Curve, Monzo and pals to see how they are growing their users through simplicity and perks like airport lounge access. “Focus on expanding the existing scope to recognise and reward activity beyond spending”, according to Jouan.
The third area that Jouan says to focus on surrounds increasing stakeholdership. Treat your customers like they are stakeholders in the business to see a refocusing around service. “Businesses have long been built around customer needs, but today, we are seeing more personal and emotional consumer demands contributing to their construction.
The brand-customer relationship is becoming increasingly reciprocal: Consumers are being co-opted as stakeholders, with the ability to directly influence brands’ journeys. And it’s not just about contributing creative ideas and feedback; more and more devoted fans are now funding their favourite projects, for instance. This democratisation of creativity and decision-making means that consumers can now craft, elaborate and ultimately determine commercial offerings for themselves.”
What should you do?
“Create opportunities to tap into the expertise of your consumers and make them feel invested in the creative process,” says Jouan. Doing this will refocus efforts to bring customers closer to the brand and significantly increase your chances of keeping the already super loyal customers in addition to cultivating new ones.
From having a customer board meeting, to providing factory tours, bringing the customer closer to the business (not just its bottom line) will see rewards on social and quite possibly innovation front too. “It’s about how much you let them in,” according to Jouan.
2020 isn’t just about customers. Technology and lifestyle elements will play a big part in the coming year. From the eagerly anticipated PS5 launch from Sony, to legal marijuana increasing in popularity. A lot of changes to create new economies and opportunities are about to come to fruition.
Economically speaking, the world looks set for a slowdown and even recession in various areas, a focus on the areas that Jouan predicts will help lessen these effects if done well, not going full-steam with them won’t see the desired results. With the world population growing to 7.7 billion, there’s a lot of opportunity out there that has never been within such easy reach.
Paul Armstrong runs HERE/FORTH, an emerging technology advisory, is the author of ‘Disruptive Technologies’ and regularly writes about technology and society for Forbes, Reuters and Cool Hunting. He is also the creator of TBD the conference which attendees described as ‘TED… without the bullsh!t’.