As we get exposed to constant environmental alarms, we start to question our current consumption patterns. We turn to companies to respond and make action of their promises. At the same time, the world is becoming ever more digital. We expect new experiences, simplifying and enriching our lives. We expect seamless experiences across physical and digital touch-points. We don’t think of a product, brand or communication as separate things. As consumers we are also seeking products and services that enable self-care and a healthy lifestyle. The desire to live a more mindful lifestyle is adding up on the pressure on companies to change.
Companies must show they care for both the consumer and the planet. They must design holistic, seamless, and empowering experiences. They must have a clear strategy for all the components of their brand. How can a company offer experiences where the technology is not even noticed, as if it is invisible – at the same time giving consumers superpowers?
#1 Trusted Truth
In a culture of trust, people dare to share the truth.
The technology revolution is hopeful; fighting Parkinson with sensor technology, treating patients in remote places, leveraging artificial intelligence to speed up sustainability. We often hear about innovations of this kind. However, we rarely hear about advances in ethics that need to follow such development. If this is not addressed, people will lose trust in technology. Every day, we get reports from dysfunctional politics, business processes and ethics. This makes us more cynical and creates a growing desire for answers. As consumers we are expecting more information from the producers and want the right information early on in the process. We expect relevant information in every experience and will take proactive action if this is not fulfilled. Transparency is part of the solution, but needs to come together with privacy!
The increasing pressure on organizations to offer transparency and privacy is, of course, a challenge. It comes not only from consumers but also from employees, investors, media and government. In such a setting, creating a culture of trust that builds on open and honest communication is the only feasible strategy. It is about removing barriers that hinder people from accessing the information they could need to make better decisions. In a culture of trust, people dare to share the truth.
#2 It takes a circle to be circular
We don’t need the talk, we need the action!
Consumers are getting more aware of the negative impact their consumption has on the planet, society or themselves. People want to be responsible, but it’s hard to change habits. As Deming’s 94-6 rule states, only 6% of problems can be attributed to the individual and the rest to the system. Why aren’t there highways for electric bikes as there are for cars? Or why aren’t all parking lots equipped with electric chargers? Why is it often a lot cheaper to travel by air than by train? If we don’t change the system to support and encourage new habits, change will not happen. The inability to affect the system creates frustration among us as consumers.
What needs to happen globally, is a transformation towards a circular economy. The products and services we buy and consume will no longer support our own needs. They are a part of a much bigger system where the goal is zero waste. In 2019 we will need to continue pushing the boundaries of the circular economy. We need to rethink not only products and services, but the entire value chain. Companies and organizations will need to work together, across silos and industries, to enable behavior change. They will need to provide a continuous flow of triggers, coaching, rewards, knowledge, and insights that help people develop and sustain new behaviors that are good for earth and humanity. Sustainability has up to now, in too many contexts, been seen as good PR. In 2019 consumers and the planet don’t expect any more talk – they need to see action!
#3 Curated Care
Healthcare is moving from acute and reactive to proactive and personalized
In 2019 we are going to see a rise of brands in the health space. The plant-based revolution continues, and sleep problems have now become a public health epidemic. Researchers are linking lack of sleep to cognitive functions as well as to emotional intelligence and mental health. New tech products aim to help people with their holistic health, such as nighttime wearables, food trackers, and smart pillows.
Technology is helping us track and analyze everything from sleep quality to screen time, nudging us to act and reflect. The healthcare system, on the other hand, stands in front of major transformation as digitalization enables a shift from reactive treatment of illnesses to proactive and preventive actions for increased health and well-being.
The WHO report, titled ‘Everybody’s Business’, highlights how our own health is no longer outsourced to healthcare professionals. It’s down to us to take responsibility for it. That’s not just via our lifestyle choices. We also use our devices to capture data, identify patterns, and create new habits. This, in turn, will change the way we interact with the healthcare system.
Different countries are at different stages in the transformation towards a more proactive, personalized, and patient-centric healthcare system. What is true globally though is that the new generation of consumers is more open-minded to the definition of health. They see technology as a mean to improve life quality.
#4 Frictionless Experience
Seamless physical & digital
The physical versus the virtual experience is no longer an either-or proposition. As consumers we are not separating our on- and offline worlds. It’s all reality, important and complementing useful to us. As these worlds are merging, there is a growing desire for smoothness and integration between analog and digital. The best experiences are the ones where we don’t really have to think about technology. The technology is invisible to us, making our lives more convenient and frictionless than ever before.
A frictionless experience is not just about providing access to services and products through different channels. Friction still exists between different touch points in a journey, between physical and digital, and between our previous experiences and the current. This friction disrupts our workflows, adds cognitive load, and causes frustration and stress. The more we become aware of this friction, the more it will hurt.
Our smart devices will help us more in each situation, being aware of the location we are in and what we need to do. Sensing what is in our close proximity, whether it is resources or people. Helping us navigate to where we need to be, or what we need to do next. With connected sensors and devices, our physical environment will also adapt to our needs and situation. We readily embrace new technology and services that integrate seamlessly into our reality. That support us instead of disrupt us. It is in the marriage of technology and simplicity that companies will be able to connect with us in new and exceptional ways.
#5 Co-creation Economy
The power of collaboration
Co-creation is all about the very simple idea; that working together is better. Digital co-creation is the new way of creating value across all levels of society and business, across sectors and industries. It knows no limitations as to how many can participate in a design process, where they come from, or what their background is. As consumers we seek the opportunity to create our own solutions to our problems. A digital co-creation process empowers us to do this, allowing us to tailor products and services to better fit our needs and wants. This goes beyond the concept of prosumers, where consumers play an active when goods are mass customized in the production process. A consumer can now also be the designer, and even the brand.
Companies must adapt to this new reality to survive. This stretches from inviting consumers and partners to co-create new products or services to enabling anyone to launch his or her own brands and providing access to marketplaces.
Being truly customer-focused in 2019, means seeing the potential of ‘teaming up’. Teaming up and collaborating with end-users, influencers, experts, and even competitors. As consumers we will embrace brands that, with a win-win mindset, provide platforms for digital co-creation.
About Oscar: Works as Business Designer and CEO at Unicorn Titans, a Swedish digital innovation agency. He’s a frequent keynote speaker on digital transformation and the future of work, and author of Superpowering People – Designing The Collaborative Digital Organization and Digital Workplace Strategy & Design.
About Kristina: Founder of ambalaj.se and Design Director at KDV Design Studio. She helps companies navigate through complex design & innovation projects and through strategic practice delivers clear and actionable guidance to make sure the insights are turned into human-centered design solutions. She’s a frequent trend speaker and coaching organisations in design thinking.
Graphic design: Mats Tejre