In the race for relevance, old ways won’t open new doors. The reality is we all know that doing the same thing over again and expecting a different outcome is daft – if we were in doubt there are enough hackneyed quotes to remind us. But knowing we need to adapt is one thing, being able to act on it is quite another. That today’s consumers are more uncompromising than ever, makes this need for change scarier still.
Being relevant means recognising that the customer journey is not limited to simply meeting customers’ expectations. Relevance is the sweet spot where authenticity and customer experience come together to form the foundations of a relationship that will ensure you are part of someone’s story.
“Consumers are forging a path to something more relevant,” leading consumerist and shopper behaviouralist, Ken Hughes said at the Align Technology GP Forum in September. They want something real.
“Ask yourself why people prefer to buy their coffee in a boutique café from a hipster with a beard or why the street food movement is booming all over the globe,” said Hughes. “It is because people want ‘real’, they want the ‘story’. They want to feel they are doing business with real people, people who get them, who are like them. You want to build a brand that has some element of tribal and community focus,” he continued.
While we are all consumers, like it or not the most important and influential groups are Millennials and Gen Z – the latter of which will become the biggest consumer group from 2020. Their combined appetite for authenticity borders insatiable. For these groups, the customer experience and centricity they crave is underpinned by shared (perceived or real) values. It has seen the meteoric rise of disruptive brands such as Airbnb, Dollar Shave Club, Uber, Fever Tree and many more that are challenging some of the biggest, best-loved established brands of the modern era.
So, what have these brands done differently to secure their ascendancy? They have closed the relevance gap by ensuring that they reflect core, shared values back at the consumer. Unlike fashion, values have a longer shelf life. That’s not to say they don’t change; they do, but they have stronger foundations.
The adage ‘people buy from people’ while maligned by many over the decades has never been more apt. But in order to be the person others ‘buy’ from you need to show what lies beneath the default setting to reveal your authentic self. Keeping it personal rather than transactional is key to ensuring that customers have a better experience because the emphasis shifts to become about the one-to-one interaction; their perception and belief that they are not getting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, that they are important and appreciated.
The customer may not always be right, but they do drive your business. And they talk. Amplified by social media, word of mouth has become supremely powerful. What people say about you is your strongest asset – arguably it was ever thus, just on a smaller (analogue) scale. Word-of-mouth, storytelling if you will, is something that regardless of technological innovations and human evolution has never left us. So, in the words of Ken Hughes’ as he addressed the GP Forum delegate: “What did you do today to make a customer tell a story?”