Is the modern customer a paradox? Whilst social changes and the climate emergency are inspiring audiences to shop with a conscience, the growing cost-of-living crisis is forcing them to prioritize the bottom line. And these external pressures aren’t likely to stabilize any time soon. In an era of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, knock-on effects will be plentiful and hard to anticipate.
A core tenet of modern customer relevance is understanding that seemingly contradictory behaviors and decision-making are the norm and should be embraced. After all, they’re simply a part of being human.
By listening to their audiences—both what they are buying and crucially why they are buying it—businesses can adapt to thrive within this unpredictable context. And end up doing good while they’re at it. A term for describing this approach is ‘life-centricity’.
One example, highlighted in our Human Paradox report, is that over 60 per cent of consumers said that their priorities ‘keep changing because of external pressures’—and yet their expectations of brands aren’t diminishing. Increasingly, brands are expected to step up and play a helpful role in people’s lives as they attempt to navigate uncertainties. The same research indicated that two-thirds of consumers expect companies to understand and address their changing needs even during these times of disruption.
Within the C-Suite, that’s causing challenges. Nearly 90 percent of business executives have acknowledged that “customers and employees are changing faster than they can change their businesses” and require a roadmap to reach and maintain relevance with today’s consumer.
Building and executing that roadmap effectively will require businesses to consider two things. Firstly, the humanity of every customer. And secondly, an understanding of how and why their needs, wants—even their identities—can change at speed thanks to the unpredictable life forces that are coming into play. By building a strategy around those two outlooks, businesses can thrive in the future.
This concept underpins our fundamental recommendation to executives: you must evolve your business to be more life-centric.
Here, we outline the beginning stages and considerations of how businesses can start down the path to life-centricity.
See customers in their full life
Over the past decade or more, businesses have become hooked on a diet of compartmentalizing their audience. What we mean by that is that companies will instinctively aim to sort their customers into neat boxes and cater to them—or even predict their behavior—in accordance with their understanding of those boxes. In 2022 and beyond, this approach is coming up short. Rather than relying on static segmentation models, businesses must adopt a more dynamic and holistic approach to data. Understanding that numbers alone can never tell the full story of a customer’s life is the first step towards a life-centric model which sees them as more than just buyers.
For inspiration, consider the case of Japan’s bank of Fukuoka. Over a 10-year period the bank had seen footfall into its physical branches plummet by 40%—a trend hastened, but not caused, by the pandemic.
It was clear that the expectations of customers both new and old were changing, and that something fresh was required to cater to this organic shift in behavior. Enter Minna Bank, a cloud-driven banking system created by the company together with Accenture, which has set a new standing for digital banking in Japan and on the global stage. By catering to the country’s growing demand for internet banking, the Fukuoka Financial Group has become an indelible part of Japan’s and the world’s digital banking ecosystem.
Solve for shifting scenarios
Whether knowingly or not, brands established a new precedent during the pandemic for the help they can practically offer to improve people’s lives. Whether it be Burberry providing PPE in the UK, or supermarkets extending their hours for essential workers, brands won by showing that they could step up in a crisis.
Santander Brazil provided a fascinating case study to show how businesses can adapt to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. Through Santander Sim, the bank now offers the fastest and most convenient way to apply for a personal loan in the world’s fifth largest country. The digital platform has slashed both the time and the requirements needed to apply for a loan, meaning that more Brazilians than ever are hearing ‘yes’ where they might previously have heard ‘no’.
Simplify for relevance
Increasingly, the world is a messy and complicated place. While consumers do expect businesses to recognize that fact, there are rewards available for those who help—in whatever way they can—to simplify it.
The pet food brand Blue Buffalo offers a strong example of precisely this dynamic. Acting on the insight that nearly one in five US families adopted at least one new pet during the pandemic, Blue Buffalo took steps to help those new owners settle into their lives of pet parenthood. Where pet insurance, training, wellness, and food can be complex fields to navigate, Buddies—a new app developed by the brand—streamlined that. By creating a profile, customers can track their pet’s wellness, exercise, training, and food preferences, all whilst earning points to spend on exclusive rewards for their furry friends to enjoy.
All of these successful examples show that, rather than being a paradox too difficult to understand, the modern customer is multi-dimensional. As we prepare to enter yet another era of profound disruption and change, the businesses who thrive will be those who tailor their approach to that fundamental fact.
That, ultimately, is how a business can become life-centric. By viewing customers as fully-rounded human beings as opposed to numbers, and delivering solutions that provide a material benefit to the changes they’re facing in their lives, brands can achieve relevance and success.