Is the modern customer a paradox? While 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 are unlikely to stabilize any time soon. In an era of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, the side effects will be abundant and difficult to anticipate.
A key tenet of modern customer relevance is to understand that seemingly contradictory behaviors and decision-making are the norm and must be embraced. After all, they are simply part of being human.
By listening to their audiences—both what they’re buying and crucially why they’re buying it—businesses can adapt to thrive in this unpredictable context. And they end up doing good while they’re at it. A term to describe this approach is ‘life-centred’.
One example, highlighted in our Human Paradox report, is that more than 60 percent of consumers said their priorities ‘keep changing due to external pressures’—and yet their expectations of brands are not diminishing . Increasingly, brands are expected to step up and play a helpful role in people’s lives as they try to navigate uncertainties. The same research indicated that two-thirds of consumers expect companies to understand and address their changing needs even during these disruptive times.
Within the C-Suite, this is causing challenges. Nearly 90 percent of business executives acknowledged that “customers and employees are changing faster than their businesses can change” and need a roadmap to reach and maintain relevance with today’s consumer .
Building and executing that roadmap effectively will require businesses to consider two things. First of all, the humanity of each client. And second, an understanding of how and why their needs, desires—even their identities—can change rapidly thanks to the unpredictable forces of life that are coming into play. By building a strategy around those two prospects, businesses can thrive in the future.
This concept underpins our fundamental recommendation to executives: you want to evolve your business to be more life-centered.
Here, we describe the initial stages and considerations of how businesses can begin on the path to the center of life.
See customers in their entire lives
Over the past decade or so, businesses have become hooked on a diet of compartmentalizing their audience. What we mean by this is that companies will instinctively aim to divide their customers into neat boxes and cater to them—or even predict their behavior—according to their understanding of those boxes. In 2022 and beyond, this approach is falling short. Instead of 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 toward a life-centered model that considers them more than just shoppers.
For inspiration, consider the case of Japan’s bank of Fukuoka. Over a 10-year period the bank had seen footfall at its physical branches drop by 40%—a trend accelerated, but not caused, by the pandemic.
It was clear that the expectations of both new and old customers were changing, and that something fresh was needed to cater for this organic change in behaviour. Enter Minna Bank, a cloud-driven banking system created by the company together with Accenture, which has established a new position for digital banking in Japan and on the global scene. By addressing the country’s growing demand for internet banking, Fukuoka Financial Group has become an indelible part of Japan’s and the world’s digital banking ecosystem.
Solve for changing scenarios
Whether knowingly or not, brands have set a new precedent during the pandemic for the practical help they can offer to improve people’s lives. Whether it’s Burberry providing PPE in the UK, or supermarkets extending their hours for essential workers, brands have won by showing they can 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 fifth largest country in the world. The digital platform has reduced both the time and the requirements needed to apply for a loan, meaning that more Brazilians than ever before are hearing ‘yes’ where they might have heard ‘no’ before.
Simplify for relevance
Increasingly, the world is a messy and complicated place. While consumers expect businesses to recognize this fact, there are rewards available for those who help—in any way they can—simplify it.
Pet food brand Blue Buffalo offers a powerful example of precisely this dynamic. Acting on the knowledge that nearly one in five US households have adopted at least one new pet during the pandemic, Blue Buffalo has taken steps to help those new owners settle into their lives. domestic parents. Where pet insurance, training, wellness, and food can be complex areas to navigate, Buddies—a new app developed by the brand—has simplified that. By creating a profile, customers can track their pet’s wellness, exercise, training and food preferences, all while earning points to spend on exclusive prizes for their furry friends to enjoy.
All these examples of success show that, rather than being a paradox too difficult to understand, the modern customer is multi-dimensional. As we prepare to enter another era of disruption and profound change, the businesses that succeed will be those that shape their approach to that fundamental fact.
This, in the end, is how a business can become centered on life. By seeing customers as fully rounded human beings as opposed to numbers, and by delivering solutions that provide material benefit to the changes they are facing in their lives, brands can achieve relevance and success.