Today’s business landscape is consumer-centric, forward-looking, adaptive and constantly evolving. It’s a new era in which brands must embody not only meaning, dynamism and dedication, but transparency and accountability. Organisations that fail to adapt will struggle to compete in the next few years.
Wayne Hull, Managing Director for Accenture Digital, Africa and co-author of the whitepaper explains, “Consumer expectations today have become highly liquid. For example, if you’re a South African bank providing an online experience, your customers aren’t comparing your offering only to what other local banks provide. They’re comparing it to Amazon and Facebook. Personalised, hyper-relevant experiences have become critically important to consumers.”
Importantly, personalisation and relevance differ greatly. Personalisation is often static and time-lagged, delivered at the point of purchase in response to certain customer behaviours. Hyper-relevance, however, is dynamic and “always on”. It focuses on using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to understand customers’ needs in the evolving context in which they make their purchasing decisions.
The traditional approach is failing
The objective of the former ‘Loyalty Era’ was creating incentives for brand memberships which drove repeated purchases. The Relevance Era upends that thinking. The goal now is to create a gravitational field that attracts customers into orbit around a brand – a field strong enough to withstand the constant re-evaluation of the digital age.
Many established South African companies are already feeling the effects of the shift in consumer expectations, the whitepaper notes, and executives are seeing long-loyal customers begin to move to competitors.
According to Accenture’s 2017 Global Consumer Pulse, South African companies lost R663 billion in potential revenue in 2017 due to customer switching. 66% of those switches happened because customers felt the brands’ offerings lacked relevance.
A key reason for this change in behaviour is that in the Loyalty Era, consumers were discouraged from re-examining their options. In the Relevance Era, however, a new mobile-enabled and digitally savvy generation is continually challenging, assessing and comparing companies’ offerings. It’s a shift from the loyalty ‘loop’ of once-off assessment to a churn of continual evaluation. 2018 research conducted by Accenture noted that leaders in sustainable growth today not only understand the changing digital needs of customers, but pivot their growth strategies accordingly.
But that’s not all. “Consumers are turning ever more to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat to develop opinions about brands,” the whitepaper’s authors note. “And they’re consulting comparison-shopping and review websites at an accelerated rate, with 71 percent now saying that such online resources are important and influential to their purchase consideration. South Africans are even getting more comfortable acting on recommendations from intelligent-learning applications.”
Consequences of the change
Now more than ever, there’s a need for a strategic rethink. For CMOs in particular, the new consumer landscape calls for an expansion and realignment of the marketing framework.
Fortunately, with advancements in data analytics, companies now have the ability to see and react to consumer fluctuations in the moment. Moreover, every transaction or engagement can be tapped, yielding the key data needed to personalise future experiences.
The age of hyper-relevance is upon us. The message: adapt, or your customers will switch to your competitors, and soon.