The End and the Beginning
With 2017 about to end and 2018 ready to begin, this is not so much a blog about the vagaries of the market we’re currently experiencing (for that is a given), but one to explore some thoughts on the need for strategically managing the many realities evidenced by the massive disruptions to long-established business models in a new competitive era. An era defined by a globally, digitally Connected Consumer, now demanding both personalization and innovation.
For the last 200 years, with the introduction and benefits of mass production, brands and retailers assumed there was a mass market. But recent data have largely debunked this myth. For brands, there’s now the acknowledgment of a "new" reality: that you can no longer sell what you make; you must make what you can sell. Commensurately, a retailer’s "new" reality is that they can no longer sell what they bought; they must buy what they can sell.
And what of consumers? Every person on planet Earth now has the potential for seamlessly connecting to every other person, brand or retailer. However, every single one of us inhabits a world of our own, increasingly making us markets of one. The paradox of global connection is that, as digital links become stronger, individualization becomes ubiquitous.
Creating Customer Value in the Digital Multiverse
The problem is how to create customer value in the physical and digital — AKA, the “phygital” — multiverse, which is redefining the consumer experience. Here are some challenging thought-starters for 2018:
- Personalized innovation defines the customer experience.
- Realize that you are what you are able to charge for your goods or services. Therefore, nothing is more important than the knowledge required to attract, hold and grow profitable customers.
- Because of the speed of change and competitive pressures, you’ve got to go for what you cannot expect to get, realizing that nothing will probably turn out exactly as it was supposed to anyway. Failures now are an option. The key is learning to fail fast while succeeding even faster.
- In an inherently inconsistent world, consistency is not the virtue that it once was. See directly above.
- Your biggest competitor, and salvation, is your own view of the future; innovation and competition may now come from anywhere and at any time.
Re-inventing innovation by seeking innovation
Both brands and retailers must now see customers as more than sums. To that end, they must be able to create an ever-innovating, participatory customer experience. However, this is not just about entertainment, it’s also about genuine engagement. Experiences will, with acceleration, be manifested though a seamless, frictionless combination of physical and digital offer messaging, both designed in a personalized manner.
It's important to note, however, that innovation is not just happening here — it’s also happening over there. Take a few minutes, then, to view some great examples from across the globe, each illustrating the reality of tomorrow’s innovation already happening today.
- Sephora in the U.S. has created a new channel for beauty retailing focused on convincing specialization. Using data-driven customer insights and predictive analytics, they have mastered the concept of personalized innovation. See the video
- Coop Italia created a stunning new grocery retailing experience. See the video
- Starbucks is opening a new store every 15 hours … in China. The chain recently collaborated with Alibaba to create an innovative, personalized customer experience. See the video
As you begin 2018, remember that complacency is all too easy, and common. But we well know it comes with a steep price. As I close 2017, I’m reminded of my early days working at TJ Lipton, and am harkened by the sage wisdom and astute observations of one of its greatest VPs of Sales, Bob Livingston: “The lead dog always has the best view.” That was so right then. Still, now.
Hail the Consumer and Happy New Year!