Future gazing from a great height (in the low country)
Adam and I spent an interesting and at times challenging day last week in the company of fellow strategists and marketers from across the world at The Future of Customer Experience conference. Brands as diverse as Heineken and Circe du Soleil were at the event, hosted by Trendwatching, atop the appropriately named A’DAM Tower.
Here’s what we took from the day.
Necessity, it’s often said, is the mother of invention.
But that’s not the whole story.
Firstly, Necessity can take many forms, forms that perhaps we haven’t considered. It’s as complex a subject as the human condition itself.
And secondly, Invention, or more accurately Innovation, is the mother of Expectation.
In essence, here’s the thinking:
We live in a world of constant innovation – a constant game of one-upmanship between brands vying to grab the headlines and dazzle their customers with shiny new things.
Some of these innovations look like the work of genius:
others smack of potential madness
We saw dozens of examples on the day – and there was a good distribution on the sanity spectrum…
Either way, all innovations are in some way or another designed to address our basic human needs. Needs such as Convenience, Relevance and Empathy.
And this in turn is driving a whole raft of trends in consumerism.
From the need for Convenience comes a trend towards Atomised Experiences, where services and experiences are sliced and diced along dimensions of time and space, or broken apart and reaggregated, so they can be served in new, more accessible, more convenient ways. You can think of ‘Atomisation’ as the next evolution of on-demand. Here’s an example with Stop & Shop.
The need for Relevance is fuelling the trend for Sentient Spaces, physical spaces that recognise and respond to consumers on an individual level. Think Minority Report: Bidooh.
Another basic human need, Empathy, is going to drive a trend that’s being called Inclusive IRL: brands will no longer be able to get away with offering experiences that are not accessible to the entire spectrum of consumers. Some brands are actively embracing this trend like Facing Emotions.
All this innovation means that consumers now live in what Trendwatching is calling an Expectation Economy.
Expectations are the secret to anticipating future customer needs, and those expectations are also set outside the industry you operate in as a brand. Customer expectations will be set by the best in class anywhere, be it in design, customer experience, service, quality, price…wherever.
Tesla set expectations around sustainability and reduced environmental impact that the rest of the car industry had to match. But of course, that expectation won’t stay in the car industry. Just like the expectations set by Apple around design didn’t stay in the tech industry, the expectations around speed and convenience set by Amazon aren’t limited to the ecommerce industry, and the expectations around community and belonging set by Airbnb won’t stay in the hospitality sector.
The bottom line? Customer expectations are forever rising, the bar is being set ever-higher, and the successful brands of the future need to be alive to ever-evolving trends being driven by global innovation across the customer experience spectrum.