4 characteristics of the modern consumer

Consumer behavior has changed substantially over the past 8 years. Because a number of technologies have become more mature, companies are getting new possibilities for fulfilling customer needs. Mobile is undoubtedly the most important driver here. In the coming years, technologies such as 3D printing and automating technologies (e.g. robots, AI) will also reach a more mature phase. In fact, this phase is already dawning. On this basis, I was reflecting this summer about what consumer expectations are in such a new world. I came up with 4 characteristics. There are undoubtedly more of them, or different ones, but these work well for me and for my customers. They are: personalized services and products, convenience as the new norm, personal treatment, and a desire to buy from ´awesome´ companies

Presentation with 4 characteristics

If you´d like to explore the four characteristics in greater depth, be sure to take a look at this presentation on SlideShare, where you´ll find all the details, many additional examples as well as a suggestion on how to deal with this consumer.

 

1.    Personalized products and services

The ideal segment size today is 1. We are evolving towards a situation where everyone has his own services and products. One of my favorite examples of this is ´nrml´ in New York. This store makes personalized earphones for you. What you have to do is very simple: you take 5 photos of your ear and, on the basis of these pictures, they make customized earphones for you. They are made on site and your package is adapted by a 3D printer so that your earphones fit into it perfectly. Brilliant and personalized. Another extreme example is a company that wants to personalize cosmetics on the basis of the consumer´s DNA. We are entering into a phase of extreme personalization in which people not only receive on-demand services (we´ve had that for some time now), but now will also make products (or have them made) on demand. 

2.    Convenience as the new loyalty

Today it has to be fast, easy and fun for the consumer. You can be for or against companies like Uber, HelloFresh, Booking.com, Instagram…, but they all have one thing in common: they’re fast and easy as well as fun to work with. Today, convenience is the basis of loyalty. If things don´t take place easily enough, they shut down fast. We’re evolving towards a world of extreme simplicity. Earlier you almost needed an engineering degree to get a robot to start, today even I can take a vacuum cleaning robot out of the box and, with a single press of the button, get it working. All new interfaces are making life steadily easier. Above all companies that weren’t born in the digital world often have difficulty with this. Their criteria are still too often: it has to be complete and perfect. As a result it becomes big and complex, and the customer doesn´t like that. Extreme simplicity is crucial for the modern consumer.  

3.    Personal treatment

Alongside all the digital violence, people also increasingly love sincere human interest and friendliness. It´s the most interesting paradox of the digital world: the more digital everything becomes, the more important the human being becomes once again. It´s the law of scarcity: human contact declines in frequency in the average customer relationship, and precisely therefore it rises in value. However you can´t buy or program this element. There´s no app for it. It´s something you have to do. Day after day.  This is where the genuine human skills come to the surface. Empathy, passion and creativity are still difficult for a computer. It’s the point where people can make the difference, and moreover it’s an element to which consumers attach a great deal of importance. 7 in 10 consumers would like to have sincere human contact, even if the digital channels are functioning perfectly. 

4.    Awesome companies to buy from

The last characteristic is a preference that consumers have for buying from cool companies. This has always been the case, but today you can feel it just a little bit more. Tesla, Apple, Google, Coolblue… all of them are companies that the consumer prides himself on buying from. We like to associate ourselves with awesome companies. These companies go further than delivering a product. They generally have a vision that, in their opinion, will change the world. Tesla isn´t a car company, it’s an energy company. Elon Musk is convinced that the Earth will be destroyed due to poor energy use. And that’s why he set up Tesla: to solve that problem. When he recently shared all of Tesla´s patents online with the rest of the world, it was because he found that things aren´t going fast enough. He wants to save the world from wasteful energy consumption and he realized he can´t do that on his own. So he shared all his trade secrets. The story of Tesla is virtually the script of a film that we are all watching. As soon as a company’s story is being followed by consumers, you know you’ve succeeded in this element. 

Digital and human skills are called for

The first two characteristics, personalized products/services and convenience, are things where you must rely on digital possibilities. It means being good in data and user interfaces. In some cases it involves being good in 3D printing and working out new ways to respond as well as possible to the needs of the modern customer. 

The last two characteristics, the personal touch and being sufficiently attractive to elicit purchases, calls for typical human skills. To stand out in both these elements, you need modern PR, modern HR and the right ambitious attitude.