How embracing human complexity can help your business succeed

Is the modern customer a paradox? While social change and the climate emergency are inspiring the public to shop conscientiously, the growing cost-of-living crisis is forcing them to prioritize profits. And these external pressures are not likely to level off anytime soon. In an era of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, the knock-on effects will be abundant and difficult to predict.

A core tenet of modern customer relevance is the understanding that seemingly contradictory behaviors and decision-making are the norm and should be adopted. After all, they are simply part of being human.

By listening to their audience, both what they are buying and most importantly Why they’re buying it: companies can adapt to thrive in this unpredictable environment. And they end up doing good while they’re at it. One term to describe this approach is “life-centricity.”

One example, highlighted in our Human Paradox report, is that over 60% of consumers said their priorities “keep changing due to external pressures,” yet their expectations of brands aren’t diminishing. Brands are increasingly expected to step forward and play a useful role in people’s lives as they attempt to navigate uncertainty. The same research indicated that two-thirds of consumers expect companies to understand and address their changing needs even during these downtimes.

Within the C-Suite, this is causing problems. Nearly 90% of business executives recognized that “customers and employees are changing faster than their businesses can change” and require a roadmap to achieve and maintain relevance with today’s consumer.

Building and executing that roadmap effectively will require companies to consider two things. First, the humanity of each customer. And second, an understanding of how and why their needs, wants, even their identities, can change rapidly thanks to the unpredictable life forces that come into play. By building a strategy around these two perspectives, companies can thrive in the future.

This concept is the basis of our key recommendation to leaders: you need to evolve your business to be more life-focused.

Here, we outline the initial stages and considerations for how companies can embark on the path to life-centeredness.

See customers in their complete life

Over the past decade or more, companies have gotten into a diet to compartmentalize their audience. What we mean by that is that companies will instinctively try to sort their customers into neat boxes and cater to them, or even predict their behavior, based on their understanding of those boxes. In 2022 and beyond, this approach is failing. Rather than relying on static segmentation models, companies need to take a more dynamic and holistic approach to data. Understanding that numbers alone can never tell the whole story of a customer’s life is the first step towards a life-centric model that sees them as more than just buyers.

For inspiration, consider the case of the Japanese bank in Fukuoka. Over a 10-year period, the bank has seen revenue at its physical branches plummet by 40%, a trend accelerated by, but not caused by, the pandemic.

It was clear that the expectations of old and new customers were changing and that something new was needed to accommodate this organic shift in behavior. Enter Minna Bank, a cloud-based banking system created by the company together with Accenture, which has established a new position for digital banking in Japan and on the global stage. By meeting the country’s growing demand for internet banking, Fukuoka Financial Group has become an indelible part of Japan’s and global digital banking ecosystem.

Solve changing scenarios

Wittingly or not, brands have set a new precedent during the pandemic for the help they can practically offer to improve people’s lives. Whether it’s Burberry supplying PPE to the UK or supermarkets extending hours for essential workers, brands have won by proving they can weather a crisis.

Santander Brazil provided a fascinating case study to show how companies can adapt to go 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 drastically reduced both the time and the requirements for applying for a loan, meaning that more Brazilians than ever hear ‘yes’ where they might have heard ‘no’ before.

Simplify by relevance

The world is increasingly a messy and complicated place. While consumers expect businesses to recognize this fact, there are rewards available to those who help, in whatever way they can, make it easier.

Pet food brand Blue Buffalo offers a strong example of just this dynamic. Acting on the insight that nearly one in five U.S. households has adopted at least one new pet during the pandemic, Blue Buffalo has taken steps to help those new owners settle into their lives as pet parents. Where pet insurance, training, wellness and food can be complex fields to navigate, Buddies, a new app developed by the brand, has made it easier. By creating a profile, customers can track their pet’s well-being, exercise, training and food preferences, all while earning points to spend on exclusive rewards for their four-legged friends.

All of these success stories show that, instead of being too difficult a paradox to understand, the modern customer is multidimensional. As we prepare to enter another era of profound upheaval and change, the companies that will thrive will be those that adapt their approach to this fundamental fact.

This, ultimately, is how a business can become life-centric. By viewing customers as well-rounded human beings not numbers, and by offering solutions that provide a material benefit to the changes they are facing in their lives, brands can achieve relevance and success.

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