As businesses begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic (hopefully sooner rather than later) and try to determine how they can maximize their chances for success, they will need to re-imagine and re-invent themselves. Rebuilding and trying to get “back” to the future will never get the job done. There are plenty of internal considerations, but it’s going to be essential to also incorporate the major externalities and shifts, which have changed the playing field. Some of these drivers are technological and others are psychological, but they’re all unavoidable and they need to be part of your mental tool kit as you try to figure out how to succeed in the new world of work.
The desires and expectations of consumers (whether they’re clients, patients, customers, students, or whatever) are constantly changing and always increasing. Up and to the right. We live in a “what have you done for me lately” world where the past is a given and the future is always about more. Yesterday’s miracles are tomorrow’s “so-whats.” To succeed, you’ve got to be able to identify and anticipate your customers emerging desires and new needs and create products, services and solutions that meet and ideally exceed them. To win big, you’ll need to focus on six key drivers.
The first driver is TIME. Time is the scarcest resource in our lives and concerns about time will drive almost everything else. Businesses will increasingly compete in what I call the “right now” economy and, as you know from your own lives, we all suffer from “hurry sickness” where nobody really wants to wait for anything. We want to click it and get it. Businesses need to be there (anywhere and everywhere the buyer is) when the buyer is ready to buy. Today time is more valuable than money. Money doesn’t buy happiness, it buys freedom. We’re happy to pay up for access, speed and convenience.
The second driver is VOICE. The default operating system of our homes, workplaces, and our cars will be voice driven. Already, more consumers use voice assistants in their cars than smartphones. This year more than 50% of all internet searches will be by voice. This leads to “conversational commerce” which is all about ease and efficiency. Voice commands are four times faster than text and, in the mobile and voice world, we really don’t want a long list or a bunch of choices, we want an answer ASAP. This shift will change advertising, shopping, telemedicine, and many other parts of our lives. And, as the population ages, more and more older adults will find voice interactions to be infinitely easier than using a mouse and keyboard.
The third driver is ATTENTION. Attention is the new currency. Every day, amidst the noise, clutter, and glut of online information, we make hundreds of choices as to how we will “spend” our precious and very valuable attention. We make time for what we are interested in and, sadly, most people today have the attention span of a flea. Whole new industries will grow exponentially over the next few years to service this new “attention/experience economy”. Some of the most valuable companies in the U.S. create and deliver audiences and eyeballs rather than physical or financial products and services. Whatever else they may do, both Google/YouTube and Facebook/Instagram are basically in the business of assembling constantly growing audiences which they package and sell to advertisers. And what they are really selling are tiny slices of our attention.
Every business going forward will need an attention strategy because – if you want me to pay attention to you, your product, service, cause, candidate – you’ve got to pay for my attention. But not with money. You pay for my attention by showing me that you can: save me time; save me money; increase my productivity; help me make better choices and decisions; or change/improve my status. If you can show me that you can help me, I’ll pay attention.
The fourth driver is PERSONALIZATION/CUSTOMIZATION. In addition to wanting everything right now, we want it to be “just right.” What I want, when and where I want it, on my terms, at my price, in real time and on demand. The notion of “on demand” is especially critical because we’re entering a world where consumers and customers don’t want to make appointments, buy subscriptions, or have long-term commitments. Businesses will have to figure out how to be all things to each person. These are the competitive demands of the new digital marketplace and they’re only possible because of the availability of massive personalized data and ubiquitous connectivity.
The fifth driver is DATA. Data is the oil of the digital age. Even more importantly, data is what is driving us from a world of diagnostics, where we looked backwards and tried to figure out “what just happened,” to the new world of prognostics. That’s a world where companies are predicting and anticipating and – in truth – controlling and determining what’s going to happen in many parts of our lives. All based on massive stores of personal data. Data-driven businesses will use personal information to create more effective engagement and incremental transactional value as companies try to reenergize and reconnect with their end users.
The final driver is CONSTANT CONNECTIVITY. Our phones aren’t simply communication devices these days; they’re trackers, teachers, and tethers as well and we are constantly connected. More than 85% of us look at our phones within 15 minutes of waking up every day and we will look at them another 175-to-200 times in the course of the day. Everything is a conversation and it’s not simply our phones. Our homes and our cars are also increasingly connected along with all kinds of IOT devices. Without these constant connections, many of the other key drivers would lose a great deal of their impact. And many of the features, functions and services that we’ve come to expect and now take for granted would largely disappear.
Bottom line: the competitive bar will keep getting higher as the economy eventually improves and the companies that succeed will be those that surprise and delight their customers by seamlessly incorporating all of these drivers and concerns into their products and services.