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Keeping up with increasingly dynamic customer needs

Just 20 years ago, a song typically stayed on the Billboard Top 100 charts for 20 weeks. Right now, it’s closer to two weeks. Likewise, the skill set that would once last his entire career now requires a full upgrade every three to five years. Corporate longevity is also changing rapidly: In 2020, the average lifespan of a company in Standard and poor 500 it was just over 21 years, compared to 32 years in 1965. It is expected to decline further during the 2020s.

The half-life of relevance has never been shorter, and it’s no wonder: technological advances, cultural shifts, pandemics, and global conflicts are reshaping the world at a record pace. And the resulting change is not only happening faster, it is happening in a deeper way.

In the face of this barrage of uncertain and chaotic external forces, people are rethinking who they are and what matters to them. In an Accenture survey of 25,000 global consumers, published in July 2022, 60% of them told us that their priorities are changing based on global events. Almost the same number say they have completely reassessed their life purpose and values ​​in 2022, up from 50% in 2021.

As they reconcile these changes with the practicalities of everyday life, consumers make paradoxical decisions. They want to buy based on values ​​such as sustainability, but they also want value for money. They want to act in their own best interest, but also to make a difference for others. In the absence of perfect solutions, they are making decisions to the best of their ability at the moment.

Paradoxical decisions are not new, but the way people accept them is. In fact, nearly 70% of consumers told us that being inconsistent is very human and totally acceptable.

But consumers also say businesses need to keep up. About two-thirds of customers feel that companies are not responding quickly enough to their changing needs.

Meeting these needs and unlocking the next big wave of growth for businesses globally requires a new approach.

From Customer Centricity to Life Centricity

Over time, companies have moved from a product-centric approach focused on performance to a customer-centric strategy aimed at prioritizing experience. But now, the dynamics are more complicated. Companies must accept their customers as complex and constantly changing people, profoundly affected by unpredictable external forces.

It’s time to focus on life.

Life-centric companies are deeply attuned to the forces that most deeply affect their customers’ lives, such as technology, health, and culture. They achieve relevance by bridging the interaction between these vital forces and the daily decisions of their customers. And they maintain that relevance by perpetually evolving their product, marketing, sales, and service experiences as life continues to change.

Consider the case of Best Buy. The consumer electronics giant recognized that technology was part of everyday customer activities and could also be a source of stress, cost and confusion when people tried to manage multiple products in incompatible ecosystems. So Best Buy created Totaltech, a new membership option that makes it easy to buy, set up, understand and enjoy tech products—and fix them when something goes wrong. By making this life-focused shift, the company went from being a place one goes to buy technology to being a “total life technology partner” for its members. They were able to see a growing need, not just around products or experiences, but around their customers’ entire lives, and responded with a new offering that could adapt to changing circumstances and make it easier for people to experience technology. .

Seeing the whole life of customers means finding ways to respond to changing cultural and social norms around technology. Japan’s Fukuoka Bank experienced a 40% drop in traditional branch usage in 10 years and needed a way to better serve digital natives who eschew the brick-and-mortar experience and see money differently than online stores. previous generations. the result was minna bank, a cloud-based banking system that leads with a frictionless mobile app and incorporates financial and non-financial services. The final service is fun, simple, and shifts the focus from money itself to what that money enables in people’s lives.

Similarly, Microsoft saw a widening gulf between the number of organizations that needed digital updates and the number of qualified developers available to do the job. The company launched Power Pages, a tool that enables users to quickly create high-level, data-centric websites for complex business scenarios to reach their customers and community at scale, without the need to know how to code. Instead of just offering a new product, Microsoft created something that was responsive to larger life circumstances, with flexibility built in, so organizations can continue to adapt to changing needs. Organizations get a modern, secure, and reliable platform that enables them to adapt to massive change and accelerate digital innovation, no matter their level of technical fluency, and customers get the seamless digital experience they need.

Moving your company towards Life Centricity

To move towards the centrality of life, companies need to expand their strategic openness. Digital transformation is part of the process, but it is not enough on its own: time and time again we have found that this can help companies keep pace today, but not necessarily move forward or gain relevance tomorrow. Instead, the journey toward centrality in life requires a three-pronged approach: see, resolve, and simplify.

See customers throughout their lives.

Instead of treating customers simply as “buyers,” companies need to recognize them as constantly changing, multidimensional people who play many roles, each providing new opportunities for value creation.

Companies also need to broaden their understanding of the forces that most deeply affect customers’ lives. Customer analytics alone is no longer enough: monitoring changes in technology, culture, politics, health, the environment, and the economy in a much deeper way must be part of the process.

Solve for changing scenarios.

Life-focused companies are poised to deliver novel solutions in an ever-changing environment with limited resources, while benefiting not only customers but all stakeholders. Rigid, one-size-fits-all products are unsustainable when people allow themselves to be inconsistent due to external pressures. By meeting unmet needs and offering adaptability, companies can remain relevant even as circumstances change.

Simplify by relevance.

Companies must seek simplicity, not only in what they offer, but also in how they operate. Internally, organizations must prioritize interoperability across all customer-facing functions (such as product innovation, marketing, sales, service, and commerce), with an integrated technology stack across all platforms and ecosystems.

Externally, customers are eager for anything that makes it easier for them to make decisions. Businesses can use data, artificial intelligence, and human expertise to make connections between people’s needs and the external life forces that influence them. Bridging the two helps customers get what they want and helps businesses stay relevant.

Put life front and center

Truly life-centric businesses are only now beginning to emerge. And so are the rewards. In July and August, we surveyed 850 executives from around the world and their businesses and found that companies that focus on life are much more likely to stand out from their peers. Our analysis, to be published in this case, suggests that life-focused companies will achieve, on average, nine percentage points higher annual growth rates, or a 900 basis point increase in their growth rates. In fact, we found that these life-care laggards are likely to see their revenue decline year over year. For a $10 billion company, that’s the difference between adding $4 billion of new annual revenue after five years versus cutting $1 billion in the same period. Our analysis also shows that life-focused companies are more resilient and materially outperform speed to market and customer lifetime value.

Customers are changing rapidly, but so are some of today’s leading companies. The risks are there, but also the prize. Ultimately, companies cannot optimize their path to future relevance. Instead, they must discover it by taking a centered approach to life that enables the creativity, agility, and adaptability necessary to thrive in tumultuous times.

The authors would like to thank Accenture research leaders Agneta Björnsjö and Josh Bellin for their contributions to this article.

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