1. Consumers will want to improve their ratings. Help them achieve that goal.
Future consumers will be mindful of their Citizen Scores at all times. They will happily gamify the process of building a better score. It will provide an objective, measurable and verifiable path to self-betterment.
Consumer-facing companies will need to find ways to insert their brands into this process. Goods and services that offer an element of self-improvement will become more appealing, if they help people improve their scores.
Brands themselves could find their own behavior monitored, scored and audited by consumers and by the state. A negative experience for one consumer could snowball if it results in negative feedback. Poor online reviews can already harm sales today; in the future, a failure to meet values set by consumers, or the state, could derail an entire brand.
2. Consumers will become creators. Get ready for mass collaboration.
Future consumers will take products and redesign them, either to suit their own needs or to make them more appealing to their friends or people in their networks. The companies that created the original base designs could use these adaptions or enhancements to make new products. This is brand/consumer collaboration taken to a new level.
There’s potential here for agile brands to harness the creative input of millions of customers. They will need to think carefully about how and where they add value to the design and manufacturing process. Get it wrong, and they could kill their own brands or make themselves irrelevant.
As consumers become more involved in product creation, companies will need to reshape their supply chains. The imperative is to support local and highly personal production capabilities.
3. Brand experience will mean everything. Find your “wow factor.”
As people design and even produce more of the products they consume, the service and experience that a brand provides will become an increasingly important differentiator. For some brands, it will be the only thing that sets them apart from the crowd.
Experiential shopping will be table stakes — the bare minimum to engage a fickle and demanding consumer. Future consumers will crave new and rewarding experiences. Some might feature virtual environments led by VR, others will be physical environments supplemented by AR. Shops will need to become more like theme parks or universities devoted to a brand.
Across China today, consumers are increasingly empowered by the country’s economic rise and the implementation of technologies that make life seamless. With just one smartphone app, a consumer can shop, make payments and connect with friends. It’s easy, so just about everyone does it.
Future consumers will expect this ultra-convenience in everything they do. Brands will have to work hard to meet their growing expectations. Their products and supply chains will have to become fully transparent. Engagement must be frictionless. Service must be end-to-end.
4. The future will be won in micro-moments. Learn to move faster.
Technological innovation will accelerate the speed at which Chinese consumers want to engage with brands. They will jump from one experience to the next, as attention spans dwindle. Most brands will only be able to connect with them in micro-moments — those brief and ever-narrowing windows of time in which the consumer is willing to be engaged.
To thrive in this micro-moment environment companies will need to become highly skilled at predictive analytics and complex AI. They will have to evolve their goods and services continually, and the tools they use to engage consumers. Design and innovation cycles will need to accelerate. New products must come to market faster. Those that underperform must be terminated without delay or hesitation.
5. No brand can afford to ignore China. The future starts here.
China is an enormous, high-growth market. But that isn’t the only reason why every consumer-facing company needs to be doing business in the country. China is also a huge cultural laboratory. Many of the new behaviors, trends and business models that will redefine retail, shape a new consumer and forge new ways of capturing value are emerging here today.
The shockwaves from this explosion of consumer innovation will be felt far beyond China’s borders. Whether companies in other countries want to copy what they see in China, or adapt it, or create something different in response to it, two things are clear: they must understand it, and they cannot ignore it. That’s why they have to be in China.
Let’s leave the future and return for a moment to the present. The world we live in is changing so quickly. But, paradoxically, the speed of change will never be this slow again. The future is accelerating towards us at an increasing pace. FutureConsumer.Now is less about predicting what a distant tomorrow might be like; it’s more about how to change your organization now, so you are ready and relevant now.
We all need to challenge our assumptions about what might happen in the years to come, what consumers might want, how people might live. By thinking differently, we can transform and prosper.