How Embracing the Complexity of Humanity Can Help Your Business Succeed

Is the modern customer a paradox? While social change and the climate emergency are motivating viewers to shop with conscience, the mounting cost of living crisis is forcing them to prioritize the bottom line. And these external pressures are unlikely to stabilize anytime soon. In times of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, knock-on effects will be numerous and unpredictable.

A core tenet of modern customer relevance is the understanding that seemingly contradictory behaviors and decisions are the norm and should be accepted. After all, they are just a part of being human.

By listening to their audience – what are they buying and crucially why They’re buying it – businesses can adapt and thrive in this unpredictable environment. And ultimately doing good while they do. The term to describe this approach is “life-centered.”

As an example highlighted in our Human Paradox report, more than 60% of consumers say their priorities are “changing due to external pressures” – yet their expectations of brands have not diminished. As people try to navigate uncertainty, there is a growing desire for brands to step up and play a beneficial role in people’s lives. The same study showed that two-thirds of consumers expect companies to understand and meet their changing needs, even in these chaotic times.

Inside the C-Suite, this creates challenges. With nearly 90% of business executives acknowledging that “customers and employees change faster than they can change the business,” a roadmap is needed to achieve and remain relevant to today’s consumers.

Effectively building and executing that roadmap will require businesses to consider two things. First, the humanity of every customer. Second, understand how and why their needs, desires—even their identities—can change rapidly due to the unpredictable life forces at play. By building strategies around these two prospects, businesses can thrive in the future.

This concept underpins our basic recommendations for executives: You have to grow your business to be more life-focused.

Here, we outline the beginning stages and considerations for how businesses can embark on a life-focused path.

See a client’s full life

For the past decade or more, businesses have become obsessed with diets that segment audiences. By this we mean that companies will instinctively sort their customers into neat boxes and cater to them — even predict their behavior — based on their understanding of those boxes. In 2022 and beyond, this approach will not work. Instead of relying on static segmentation models, businesses must take a more dynamic and comprehensive 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-centric model that sees customers as more than just buyers.

For inspiration, consider the case of the Bank of Fukuoka, Japan. Traffic at the bank’s brick-and-mortar branches has plummeted 40% over a 10-year period — a trend accelerated but not caused by the pandemic.

It was clear that the expectations of customers old and new were changing and something fresh was needed to cater to this organic shift in behavior. Enter Minna Bank, a cloud-driven banking system the company co-founded with Accenture that is setting new standards for digital banking in Japan and on the global stage. By meeting the country’s growing demand for online banking, Fukuoka Financial Group has become an indelible part of the digital banking ecosystem in Japan and the world.

Addressing Changing Scenarios

Whether intentional or not, brands are setting a new precedent during the pandemic because they can actually help improve people’s lives. Whether it’s Burberry supplying personal protective equipment in the UK or supermarkets opening extended hours for essential workers, brands win by showing they can rise through a crisis.

Santander Brazil provides a fascinating case study to show how businesses can adapt beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. With Santander Sim, the bank now offers the fastest way to apply for a personal loan in the fifth largest country in the world. The digital platform has slashed the time and requirements needed to apply for a loan, meaning more Brazilians than ever before are likely to hear “no” instead of “yes.”

simplify dependencies

The world is becoming more and more chaotic and complex. While consumers do expect businesses to recognize this fact, there are rewards for those who help make it easier in any way.

Pet food brand Blue Buffalo is a good example of this dynamic. With nearly one in five U.S. households adopting at least one new pet during the pandemic, Blue Buffalo is taking steps to help these new owners adjust to life as pet parents, according to insights. Pet insurance, training, health and food can be complex areas to navigate, and Buddies — a new app from the brand — simplifies those areas. By creating a profile, customers can track their pet’s health, exercise, training and food preferences, while earning points that can be used to purchase exclusive rewards for their furry friend.

All of these success stories show that the modern customer is multidimensional, not an incomprehensible paradox. As we prepare to enter another era of profound disruption and change, the businesses that thrive will be those that align their approaches with this fundamental truth.

Ultimately, this is how businesses become life-centric. Brands can gain relevance and success by seeing customers as well-rounded people rather than numbers, and offering solutions that deliver material benefits to the changes they face in their lives.

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