Written by Hossain Shahriar
“The future is already here” - William Gibson
This paper delves deep into how brands of the future must be forged in an interactive and evolving society that we live in.
Introduction: The Society We Live in Today
We Live in the Age of Interaction
The proliferation of the Internet, with Web 2.0 and social media, has significantly altered the configuration of our lives and disrupted the landscape of brand management (Christodoulides, 2009; Fournier & Avery, 2011; Gensler et al., 2013). These “new media” provides brands with new-fangled tools to “reach consumers”, listen to their real-time interactions, “communicate with them” and gauge their “communication, browsing or purchase-related behaviour” (Gensler et al., 2013; Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010, p.312). The age of interaction provides brands with “multiple touch-points” to “facilitate conversations” (Christodoulides, 2009; Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012).
How This Has Made Consumers More Powerful
Social media has empowered consumers (Gensler et al., 2013) and as a result the balance of power has shifted from businesses to consumers (Christodoulides, 2009; Fournier & Avery, 2011). Consumers mastered these “interactive technologies” (Christodoulides, 2009) to use brands for their own motivations to:
- enhance their benefits
- share their stories and excitements about brands (Gensler et al., 2013)
- “aggregate perspectives” using mediation devices (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015).
- help resolve product issues of others (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010).
- influence others (Ericsson ConsumerLab, 2015a).
- turn “brand messages” into parodies (Gensler et al., 2013)
- complain about brands, expose their inadequacies and systematically annihilate them (Fournier & Avery, 2011)
The Society Will Continue to Evolve
Now that we live in a fast-paced age of interactivity, where consumers are very powerful, brands are threatened by ‘Digital Darwinism’, as “society and technology is evolving faster than brands can adapt” (Tarnovskaya, 2016b). Brands of the future, hence, needs to have the following ingrained in their DNA. They must:
- win key consumer moments in a mobile-first society
- be connected and collaborate with other brands
- be more personal than ever
Mobile-First & Micro-moments
We live in a mobile-first society. We wake up, pick-up our smartphones, carry them around everywhere we go, without letting them out of our sight, until we go back to sleep. We expect information to be at our fingertips (Google, 2016a). People are conditioned to search on their smartphones to meet their immediate needs.
Mobile has essentially altered how people consume media (Ramaswamy, 2015) and hence fragmented consumer journeys into bursts of “real-time, intent-driven, micro-moments” (Google, n.d.) “of curiosity, research, and decision” (Lawson, 2016a). Coined by Google, micro-moments are intent-rich moments when a person reflexively, acting on an impulse turns to the nearest device to act on a need – to learn something new, make a decision or get things done (Google, n.d., 2016a, 2016b). Click here to watch the micro-moments video
Micro-moments provide brands with innumerable opportunities to connect with consumers (Lawson, 2016a) “on their most personal devices” (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010, p.321). This is crucial for brands because in these moments decisions are taken and preferences are shaped (Google, n.d.; Ramaswamy, 2015). Google identified four “critical touchpoints within today’s consumer journey” (Adams, Burkholder & Hamilton, 2015) that next-generation brands needs to focus on (shown below).
Brands of the future must win these four key micro-moments with the four following strategies (Adams, Burkholder & Hamilton, 2015; Gevelber, 2016; Google, n.d.; Ramaswamy, 2015)
Brands should evaluate all stages of the consumer journey to pinpoint a set of must-win moments. The figure below exhibits five-ways of doing this. Brands need to understand what consumers want: when they wish to find inspiration, learn about products or buy something.
Studies have shown that most consumers are loyal to their needs-in-the-moment and not necessarily to brands. Companies should identify and prioritise brand-related and category-related moments and ensure their presence, when these moments transpire. This will improve brand awareness among potential consumers.
Source: (Adams, Burkholder & Hamilton, 2015)
Brands need be useful to consumers’ needs-in-the-moment to be able to shape their perceptions. To satisfy people brands need to connect them to the relevant information they are seeking. They must delve-deep into the moment and envisage how to “deliver the right experience” tailored for that moment using “contextual signals” such as “location or time of day”. See the Starbucks example below.
Source: (Adams, Burkholder & Hamilton, 2015)
Companies needs to deliver a fast and seamless mobile experience for users who wants to “know, go, do, or buy” quickly, in the moment. Consumers expect brands to deliver right things, right away.
Connected & Collaborated
People are now more connected than ever and devices are inextricably woven into our daily life. Brands can now engage across a symphony of devices. Next-generation brands must realise that retention will only come through reiterated interaction.
A recent study by Google (2016a) showed that 57% people use multiple devices, sometimes concurrently. Brands need to understand consumers’ device usage behaviour (higher usage would mean more touchpoints), providing them a gateway to ‘be there’ in the moments (see above) that matter (Gevelber, 2013; Google, 2016a). Tomorrow’s brands need to possess hyper-mobility, enabling consumers to navigate across screens to accomplish things.
Connected Life Platforms
The connectivity, power and intelligence of computing is dripping “from our devices into our objects” (Wilson, 2011). ‘Connected life platforms’ or the Internet of Things (IoT) are a plethora of smart, connected, “physical objects, seamlessly integrated into the information network”, forming an ecosystem, that constantly interacts with consumers and “generates actionable insights” (Dubash, 2016; Eagle, 2015; Haller, Karnouskos & Schroth, 2009).
Brands of the future should use an array of surrounding smart and connected devices to interact with consumers in real-time and create touchpoints. Companies should create a lifestyle around the consumer and constantly engage with them to make their life easier. Connected platforms would provide businesses with a myriad of data that can be used to glean insights to provide an enhanced consumer experience (Google, 2015; Martin, 2016), leading to a long-term relationship between brands and consumers. Applications of the IoT is ubiquitous. Nevertheless, next-generation brands should specifically focus on the following
People are increasingly using devices to attached to or inside their body (Manyika et al., 2015). People are donning smart-wearables such as smart-watches and fitness-bands. Wearables are even more intimate than smartphones and will shape the future IoT (Ericsson ConsumerLab, 2016). ‘Internables’ are next-generation health-monitoring and disease management technology, embedded with “micro-cameras” that are navigating in human bodies (Chui, Löffler & Roberts, 2010).