5 minute read 24 Sep 2019
Women is shopping

Are you ready for the client of tomorrow?

Authors

Danny Wuyts

EY Belgium Assurance Partner

Assurance partner. Broad experience serving large multinational corporations in the manufacturing, industrial, retail and services sector as well as public companies.

Eef Naessens

EY Belgium Assurance Partner

Trusted audit professional. Passionate about innovation and working with diverse talents. Digital audit influencer. Dedicated wife and mother. It’s fun to be me.

5 minute read 24 Sep 2019

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Successful companies will have to throw traditional ways of thinking overboard in order to build a lasting relationship with future customers.

In the coming years, companies in the services and retail sectors will undergo major changes in value creation for their customers. The FutureConsumer.Now-programme of EY identified 8 hypotheses that will help shape these changes. How flexible and alert is your company?

New technologies and competitive factors push traditional ways of thinking overboard

How much time do market leaders spend exploring future business opportunities? The answer for most companies in the Consumer Products & Retail sector (CP&R) is perhaps: 'not enough'. In conversations with business leaders, it appears that they primarily focus on the short term.
This is no surprise or criticism.

New technologies, innovative business models and unexpected competitive factors are certainly shaking the CP&R sector to its foundations. Moreover, these changes come at these companies at a dizzying speed. In this context it can come across as being self-centered to already make time available to predict how the consumer will behave in five or ten years and what impact this will have on the business. Yet this is not the case.

A long-term vision can help in competition

The more difficult it is to get a vision of the future, the more benefit companies will derive from succeeding in developing a long-term vision. This is not about predicting the future, but rather about thinking 'out-of-the-box' and taking the unexplored paths.

In the past months we have explained this to our clients who are active in the CP&R sector. During hackathons in Berlin, Los Angeles, London and Mumbai we invited business leaders, futurologists, creative people, and EY employees to dynamically think together about how the world of the future consumer will evolve.

One of the objectives is to question existing ideas and prejudices that have helped shape the CP&R sector for decades already. This way we can create and explore new theories and – more importantly – examine where value is created for customers and how the industry must change.

Questioning familiar and traditional ideas in this way can be very confrontive. After all, this method takes us out of our comfort zone. Yet it is a necessary condition for growth. We have to think more 'out-of-the-box' and dare to question standard ideas in order to be able to see business from new perspectives.

Spearheads to challenge existing ways of thinking

It is not easy to break through fixed thinking patterns within an organization. The following spearheads emerged during our recent hackathons:

  • A clear structure as a basis
    Creative chaos is good, but chaos in itself must be avoided. Let employees know that creative thinking about doing business is a carefully planned process, but without knowing the final destination.
  • Gather a group that is as heterogeneous as possible to brainstorm ideas
    Surround yourself with colleagues (with a mix of young and old) who have diverse views and backgrounds. This leads to an interesting and challenging exchange of ideas.
  • Come prepared at the start
    Eight clear, plausible and well-considered core hypotheses are central during each hackathon. This provides sufficient material to identify the main driving forces of change.
  • Create speed
    When generating new business ideas, it is crucial to quickly reach cruising speed. Working too slowly causes lead-times that are too long. So come out of the comfort zone, but stay focused on delivering ideas.
  • Failing is allowed, but learn from mistakes
    New ideas are in fact prototypes, with their growing pains, minor errors and unfinished elements. Do not wait until an idea is completely polished, but let it be tested by the outside world. Improve what works and drop what doesn't work.
  • Have fun, but in a controlled way
    The purpose of coming up with new business ideas is to define plausible future projects and formulate action-oriented and clear consequences for the way of doing business today. Keep control over manageable parameters (employees, location, timing, etc.) but leave room for factors that are not under your control.
    Preparing for tomorrow's client certainly requires a diverse team that has the permission to fully innovate and experiment. Thanks to the specific services of EY, we can help you in your preparations for new customers.

The list of eight core hypotheses

These hypotheses make it possible to think about the driving force behind the changing consumer behavior.

1. When 'bots' make our purchases, where is the value in shopping? Consumers will experience making purchases and going shopping as very different.

2. Will your company sell products or rather contribute to a certain lifestyle? For the consumer, owning a product becomes secondary to the experience. If s/he has different options in terms of mobility, having his/her own car is no longer a necessity for consumers.

3. What role can brands play in the areas of well-being and health? Consumers want the best possible health with minimal effort.

4. How can you help consumers make better (healthier) choices when a complete set of data is part of every meal? The consumer is aware of the origin of food and what it does with his or her body.

5. How can you make technological applications so smart that they become invisible? Consumers will not dwell on this type of technology and the data it collects for this purpose.

6. What role can brands play when gamification is applied to various aspects of our living environment? Routine behavior is optimized by adding a game aspect to processes in our environment and in our workplace.

7. How can a company build on a corporate culture if talent does not get all the opportunities internally? Consumers who work on a project basis will find assignments through cognitive platforms.

8. How will smarter infrastructure facilitate the various transportation modes? Consumers will benefit from integrated transportation systems.

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Summary

The eight core hypotheses make it possible to think about the driving force behind the changing consumer behavior.

About this article

Authors

Danny Wuyts

EY Belgium Assurance Partner

Assurance partner. Broad experience serving large multinational corporations in the manufacturing, industrial, retail and services sector as well as public companies.

Eef Naessens

EY Belgium Assurance Partner

Trusted audit professional. Passionate about innovation and working with diverse talents. Digital audit influencer. Dedicated wife and mother. It’s fun to be me.