The Me:Conomy: An Inside Look at Three Consumer Behavior Microtrends Shaping the Future of Retail
This month, LS:N Global held their quarterly consumer trends briefing. For those of you unfamiliar with LS:N Global, it is the international trends network at The Future Laboratory. Their consumer insights are some of the best in the retail industry.
This season’s briefing identified three micro trends driving what is being labeled “Me:Conomy.” Those trends are broken down into The Sharded Self, Awakening Tech and The New Value Economy. It is important to take a careful look at each one to understand what they represent in terms of changes in consumer behavior.
Microtrend #1: The Sharded Self
As consumers, our online lives are shaping how we behave in the offline world, and our short attention spans are no longer confined to the screens on our mobile devices. In the 21st century, the convergence of digital and real world selves has led to a new definition of the self – and they’re being taken to extremes. Consumers have become so enamored with the pictures that they built of themselves that they are now forcing them to become real.
Brands are now seeing the polarity paradox of extreme consumer behaviors come to life. Marketers need to adapt their strategies and shift their tactics in order to maintain consumer connection their brands.
Create a Learning Strategy to Establish New Customer Relationships
The convergence of digital and real world selves challenges brands to understand the new requirements of customers who flit freely through fashion, fads and friendships in real life, just as they do online.
Brands must understand that these consumers never finish anything; they practice partial living, letting their ephemeral personalities come and go. They give up FOMO (fear of missing out) for JOMO (joy of missing out).
For these consumers, the world is no longer about accumulating stuff; it is about accumulating experiences.
By leveraging the need for experience, brands will have to create learning strategies as offsets of their marketing strategies in order to establish new customer relationships and maintain current ones. In order to do this, work through these questions:
As a brand, what is my learning strategy? How can I help consumers be better people?
Can I offer classes that help my customers accumulate skills and master what’s important to them?
What knowledge can I provide through technology that adds value to my customers’ lives?
Remember that consumers are living storified lives. They yearn to have their friends pay attention to the grand narrative that they are crafting through their digital stories their building through the experiences they’re having and the things they are learning. The sharing of experiences validates that they have something to say and are an active part of something bigger than their individual self. Because of these complex patterns, we now face what the evolution of brands have to be.
Evolution of Brand: Living, Emotional Systems
Brands essentially becoming dynamic and living systems. Brands are going to have to figure out how to insert themselves into these storied lives. The only way they can do this is to become an entity themselves; inserting themselves into and tweaking reality of those in it in order to connect with them. Once connected, they will then have to start planning what the audience’s reaction in the system may be. To do this successfully, brands are going to have to:
Be strong and resolute, presenting themselves as unified beacons in a complex world that is built on fragments. They will have to present themselves as strong enough to withstand the shared future.
Offer evelatory service, ensuring brand trust to support and enable shared identities and lifestyles.
Show genuine emotion. Consumers do not care about the technology that surrounds a brand, they care about the technologies that connect their stories and peers’ worlds. The only thing they care about with a brand is their experiences with it and how the brand makes them feel. Brands will need to build upon technologies that have mass adoption instead of building their own.
Microtrend #2: Awakening Tech
As behavior becomes more fragmented, fleeting and omnidirectional, companies must also understand how data and the devices and platforms that deliver that data can be leveraged to create products, services and experiences that fuel consumer loyalty, build their brands and ultimately drive revenue.
In the convergence of man and machine, many brands feel that the answer lies in data, and use of that customer data to predict and drive behavior. But that is not true, and that focus is wrong.
While data is set to double in the next seven years, privacy and halting brand invasiveness is going to be key to consumers, according to LSN:Global. In the next decade, consumers will become so wary of unknown presences having access to their data that brands will face data scarcity. While TOR browsers and sites like Data Coup and CitizenMe help consumers control their digital footprints, it is important to note that consumers want all their devices to communicate and their information to sync. The need for connected, seamless sharing will help brands balance the need for digital privacy.
Everyday Enchatment: Deliver Value; Deliver Data
For brands, this means that instead of focusing on how to extract consumer data, brands should focus on how they can help their consumers’ non-digital identities. Consumers are willing to exchange information for what they hold as valuable.
This is a concept that LS:N Global is calling “Everyday Enchatment,” where consumers can integrate and intertwine technology and craft. Brands will be able to use awakening technologies (augmented, virtual reality) to use data in trusted ways to establish a customer relationship. That relationship can then be translated between online and offline commerce as awakening technologies provide an unobtrusive connected experience between the brand and consumer.
In order to do this, we will see the brain become the center of how brands market to consumers. Advertising will look into consumers’ minds and use emotional recognition (software built into displays) to drive purchases or consumption of goods, products or services deemed relevant to them.
Brands’ customer relationship management strategies will evolve in order to balance data, motion and experience in fantastic ways. Brands will have to determine the use of technology in their stores, how consumers will reach them at what touchpoints, and how that will drive emotional connection. What’s more, they will have to figure out how that technology uplifts consumers and makes them feel super human.
Microtrend #3: The New Value Economy
Changes in behavior driven by advancements in technology has led to a shift in values. We now live in an economy where consumers can bypass brands to access goods and services from one another. They rent what they need since wealth is no longer defined by ownership of possessions. Right now, consumers are asking themselves:
What is the value of waking up in the morning?
What is the value of being here?
What is the value of the work I’m doing?
What is the value of what I’m buying, listening to or partaking in?
What is the alternative?
The sharing economy continues to rise; people share rather than buy. Sites like AirBNB, NeighborGoods and Lyft will continue to play a major role in the ways in which people interact with products and services. We are seeing a new value exchange. The trade of personal assets shows new, interesting behavior patterns in two-way trust between people.
How Brands Leverage the Sharing Economy
Marketers are seeing seismic shifts of our cultural understanding of ownership because of how value economies are shifting with consumers. Rather than fight the new value economy, brands need to understand it and learn how to co-exist in it. In order to understand your brand’s place in the new value economy, ask yourself:
What does value mean to my consumers?
How does my brand fit in with this?
How can my brand leverage sharing opportunities as currency?
How will my brand help its customers build personal brand capital?
How can my brand build a time exchange platform to create connections?
In the long run, brands will have to learn to work alongside other brands. Consumers are going to except collaborative efforts and partnerships. Think of the designer collaborations you already do, but take them ten levels deeper.
What Will Work In The End
Humanity is being celebrated in technology as the distinction between man and machine continues to blur. Because of their constant connection to technology and information, consumers are always on. The continual connection drives them to continually consider the value of everything that is present in their lives.
For brands, future value in this new consumer culture means continual reinforcement of the brand’s commitment to its customers’ interests, values and beliefs. Showing that your brand will stay true to consumers’ perceptions and beliefs is key. When brands figure out how to give consumers what they need through their new brand systems in a transparent and meaningful way, they will win.
Photos: “Uppers & Downers” by Marx Design, LSN: Global, Gareth Pugh virtual reality installation in Selfridges, Shutterstock