Artificial intelligence and automation are already changing the way people live and work. At our London hack week we modeled a world in which – as a result – the relationship between time and money has changed. By that I mean, money is not the only currency that people can use to buy goods and services, and work is not the only means people have of generating wealth.
Consumers in our Time First world can capitalize on their own intrinsic value and earn tradeable social capital – a virtual currency – by engaging with brands. For example, a brand can reward them for helping with last-mile delivery or providing technical support to other customers. They can earn currency by acting as brand ambassadors, using their social influence to share positive brand experiences with their peers. Daily life is increasingly gamified through augmented reality and shopping experiences that deepen engagement by combining selling with activities or events. Consumers are rewarded for doing “good deeds” in society, such as community services or acts of charity.
In this world, consumers understand the value of the personal data captured and recorded by their AI assistants and negotiate with brands to realize this value. For example, by unlocking discounts, perks or free experiences. The social capital they build up is also tracked by governments and can be bartered for benefits such as better housing or easier access to public services.
This is a world in which people allow their AI systems to buy most of what they need, which gives them more time to shop with the handful of brands that reflect their values and purpose and help them attain the lifestyles they want. Instead of simply buying a new pair of football cleats, a future consumer could test their performance in a virtual match through the eyes of their favorite player, while getting assurance that the supply chain is free of child labor and carbon neutral. The cleats themselves could become a by-product of the brand experience.
This is a profitable world for brands that can build ecosystems with alliance partners and technology platforms so that everything "just works" for their target consumers. Branding evolves from supplying goods to delivering experience-based services. To thrive, brands need to develop ecosystems and end-to-end services that differentiate them with the consumer.
The emergence of this world would represent a deep paradigm shift. Today, many of the choices consumers make involve complexity and stress. Last-mile fulfilment is fragmented and delivery costs are unsustainable. While there are competing platforms, power is concentrated among a handful of technology companies. But in our Time First world, choice is curated and shopping is purely about leisure, with buying delegated to AI. Consumers increasingly deal with brands direct and are happy to share their data with them because they share in the value created by their data. Brands work with consumers as ambassadors to influence others. Regulatory intervention has shifted power from dominant platforms to multiple ecosystem alliances.
For this world to emerge, we’d need a light touch to the regulation of AI systems and brands that are willing and able to create alliances. Otherwise, a handful of platforms will dominate. Consumers would also need to be confident that their data is secure enough for them to engage in new forms of sharing.
Questions for leaders:
- How can brands break into the AI algorithms that might exclude them from the buying process?
- Where will the real value of the consumer lie? In the money they spend, the data they provide or the influence that they wield?
- How will the competitors of today become the collaborators of tomorrow?