The consumer is king
Today’s shoppers are more empowered than ever before. They expect the products they buy to be meaningful and they expect brands to reflect their values. This new consumer engagement framework has to some extent been driven by the continued adoption of consumer-driven technology.
They are always ‘on’ – connected to each other, and to their favorite brands, at all times. This is, perhaps, unsurprising since the number of gadgets on Earth has already surpassed the number of people, and device production continues to grow five times faster than the global population.
This has helped consumers to become more informed, conscious and curious – they want to know where their products come from, and whether they are ethically sourced, recyclable, and sustainable.
And they are open to new experiences. The real world and the digital world have collided and the barriers to engaging with new technologies have all but disappeared. Today’s consumers are more than willing to experiment if they think the experience will be worth it.
Ultimately though, if there’s one characteristic that defines modern consumer behavior – it’s that they have very high expectations.
The age of experience
Consumers expect experiences that react to the context of their situation, wherever they are – whether that’s on Instagram, Facebook, a brand’s smartphone app or in a physical store. And they expect these experiences to be intuitive and continuously responding to their own evolving needs.
There’s also a big demand for products that fit seamlessly into our lives. Modern kitchens, for example, are now kitted out with appliances that ‘talk’ to us. A counter top that weighs your ingredients and suggests the ideal cooking temperature and time in the oven. A tumble dryer that alerts you when the clothes are dry or when it needs a service. These devices offer so much more than their fundamental purpose – they’re now interacting with us.
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Increasingly, this trend is moving in store and into the physical space. New technologies are making it possible to create truly special and unique omni-channel experiences.
A good example is sports retailer Decathlon, who have fundamentally re-framed their approach to the in-store experience.
“It’s much better to experience sport rather than talking or hearing about it. So, we are switching our store network into not only a shopping place but a place for experiences, where you can try any sport you can think of”
The power of personalization
Two popular words have emerged in this domain: personalization and customization. While many brands have fallen into a bad habit of using them interchangeably, they have, in fact, different meanings and implications.
Personalization is an aesthetic adaption or configuration of a product to suit a consumer preferences, and has little to no effect on the product’s engineering. For example, engraving the consumer’s name on the surface of a bike, or adding a sticker on a kitchen equipment to match the colors and the style of the kitchen: this is personalization.
Customization is where the product’s composition is altered – or re-engineered, making it unique and capable of fulfilling a specific consumer requirement. In the case of customization, we see more and more projects in footwear for example, where the sole, or the mid-sole is tailored-made and produced on demand to fit one consumer’s particular need.
ECCO, a world-leading brand of footwear, has developed a customization project, where an individual’s biomechanical data is combined with in-store additive manufacturing to create customized silicone midsoles, within two hours.
Most importantly, there are opportunities in both personalization and customization to excite the consumer and keep them coming back for more.