The best-laid plans of yesterday are a guaranteed path to yesterday’s performance. Leaders know that the key to success lies in doing something different, rather than following a ‘more-of-the-same’ path.
Better-educated and market-savvy online customers are letting their fingers do the walking away from bricks and mortar establishments. They are asking why they should accept a limited range of choices, colours and costs when they can comparison shop in a global market.
This means that first-mover advantage will go to leaders who tune into the aspirations of their customers rather than rely upon repeat business. As leadership author Stephen Covey said: “Seek to understand, rather than be understood.”
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So what should leaders seek to understand to get business confidence to match consumer confidence in the next few months?
1. Recognise that unless your business is totally oriented to the design and creation of new products and services, your customers are getting older, smarter and more brand conscious. McKinsey reports three long-term trends reaching a tipping point: an ageing population, societal shifts altering what households look like, and economic factors slowing the expansion of wealth.
2. Closely examine the composition of your customer base to take into account fundamental shifts in households. These include rising educational attainment, more women participating in the labour market, and smaller households as fewer couples form them and immigration becomes the basis for national population regeneration.
3. Appreciate that the consumer market is being dramatically reshaped by the internet and online access to more and better information. Categories with above-average growth per household will be electronics, out-of-pocket medical expenses, communications, and international travel.
4. Carefully consider the changing structure of customer households as a driver of purchase behaviour. Purchase patterns will increasingly reflect the diverse interests of family and friends in a manner previously seen with seasonal and gift purchasing profiles.
5. Identify and reinforce brand value and consumer loyalty. Favoured brands will be under challenge from generics and retail-recommended substitutes unless there is an emphasis on continuity and extended customer relationship management.
6. Discover the impact of an increasing proportion of the community that has parents who were born overseas and who compare and communicate international trends. This draws attention to the need to find and access multilingual
talent to make global expansion a success.
7. Explore related purchase patterns that enable customers to get ready access to information and support to move up from an initial brand purchase to longer-term brand loyalty. Steve Jobs made the iPod such a breakthrough product because he designed the retail environment as a must-visit storefront to reinforce the total brand experience.
8. Establish a network of upstream suppliers and downstream distributors who share access to online customer support and after-sales services. Affluent, time-poor customers appreciate the convenience and quality-assured packages
that are associated with a fully-integrated supply chain.
9. Find ways to develop prompts to bring forward orders and lock in related purchase profiles. Timely reminders and advice about other customers’ preferences, such as online renewal reminders and Amazon recommendations, generate both referrals and cash flow.
10. Build both feed-forward and feedback mechanisms into an integrated growth strategy. Encourage your consumers to demand better products and faster service innovation.