Customer-obsession was the North Star of 2023, and in 2024 brands continuing to fulfill that promise via building trust throughout the customer journey will be a major priority. With consumers more in control than ever before, brands will need to create individualized, on-demand experiences that place the notion of equity for all at the heart of everything they do. Achieving this new mandate will involve leveraging the power of AI, without losing the inimitable emotional intelligence that can only be yielded through human touch.
Pairing all of this with a demand by customers to be “seen” across everything from cultural to sexual to gender identity, along with the litany of societal issues they feel need to be addressed by businesses ranging from health equity to climate change, poises 2024 to be a critical inflection point—one which hopefully forces brands and their leadership to be more systemically purposeful and empathy driven than ever before.
With all that in mind, following are the Top 4 Insights brands and their leadership need to keep most top of mind as the new year unfolds. Many thanks for the visionary contributions of Edwin Wong, Sid Jatia, Oren Zaslansky, and Mike Cooper highlighted within.
Predictive + Measurable Emotion
The Pathway to equity
“With so many different brands, platforms, and places to see advertising, choices become more difficult for consumers; in fact, you have a plethora of options on Netflix, unlimited partner choice on Tinder, and a marketplace on Amazon that no longer creates a paradox of choice, but literally a paradox of chance. Today’s most meaningful brands have vast potential to expand, leaping far beyond the narrow limits of their category or industry. Truly great brands leverage sophisticated tool sets to contextualize emotional mindsets and deliver on specific expectations of multicultural and diverse consumers that require cultural relevance, representation, and positive social impact on their communities.”
- Edwin Wong,
SVP Insights & Innovation, Vox Media
The Pathway to Equity
"CX ecosystems and customer journeys of the future will look very different, with the common thread being delivering experiences that are personalized and delivered in ways that better meet customers where they are at, while building trust."
In a world where equity must now sit at the heart of all a brand does if it is to engender trust, isn’t it funny that old and outdated means of knowing who customers are and how they feel are still being used? How can a brand possibly know what equity driven CX looks and feels like to one person versus another without newer means of customer understanding? As a result, look for predictive emotional intelligence to emerge as among the most critical new currencies driving business forward in 2024.
This will play out in a variety of ways, but definitely have a heavy emphasis on new means of quantifiable emotional measurement that leads to deepened customer understanding. This will entail a better mastery of how customers self-identify, such as imagining new cohorts like Caucasian + Other or Black + Other, versus using former monolithic segments that are no longer reflective of the current population. Add to that a need for dialed up emotional understanding of self-identification, not just culturally, but against things like gender and sexuality, and it becomes easy to portend a new mandate for emotionally optimized experiences that enable individualized value delivery at scale. This continued sea change will force marketers and researchers to think about investing in new means to enable quantifiable versus qualitative means of emotional measurement.
As a result, the CX ecosystems and customer journeys of the future will look very different, with the common thread being delivering experiences that are personalized and delivered in ways that better meet customers where they are at, while building trust. Consequently, brands will need to go beyond first party data to translate emotion into data that gives insight into not just people’s feelings, but how to build GTM strategies in direct response to them. Having new means of gathering predictive emotional data will not just lead to better understanding of how people feel, but to making smarter marketing and media decisions that deliver improved business outcomes.
The as-a-service Economy
“Brands cannot take the word ‘Service’ lightly. It will require a platform approach rooted in personalization, seamless self-service and ‘just-in-time’ live interactions. No one will get this right the first time. Talent working on this will not be able to apply their day-to-day knowledge considering this model is still in its early phase in many industries, like the auto category. It will require most to build robust capabilities in test-and-learn mode to unlock the right combination of elements which deliver on the full promise of ‘as-a-service.’”
- Sid Jatia
Global Vice President, Commerce + Service Transformation, General Motors
CX in the As-a-Service Economy.
"One time purchases and transactions will continue to become a thing of the past as day to day relationships that allow brands to anticipate and serve become the Holy Grail of new brand loyalty models that are now relationship based versus transaction driven."
The “As a Service” Economy has exploded over the last few years, (we even referenced it in our 2022 Insights Outlook), and it doesn’t appear to be something that’s going to abate anytime soon. However, one new area of evolution will be how DTC transforming from business model to sales channel will continue to intersect with our as a service world. Why? A need to reimagine CX with the notion of on demand service at the core will be essential to the digital transformation and ecommerce strategies of tomorrow. To succeed in a new world order driven by one-click service and subscriptions, brands will need to dig much more deeply into the consumer mindset, really understand where they are in their decision journey, and then make sure to put specific emotional triggers in front of them to create the best CX possible to drive conversions. Slick CX will no longer be enough in a landscape now driven by a brand’s ability to demonstrate and act upon authentic intentionality towards its customers.
To do this, in the year ahead and beyond, organizations will really need to think about getting into the customer’s headspace much earlier. This will require a lot more discipline around implementing processes that are iterative and capable of straddling product/service scenarios, simultaneously. Expect to see an increasing list of niche as a service offerings designed to further realize the notion of bringing the as a service concept to life in nearly every industry from banking to auto. Additionally, look for new means of brand innovation that will make better use of first party data combined with other data sets to help improve customer understanding to do so. One time purchases and transactions will continue to become a thing of the past as day to day relationships that allow brands to anticipate and serve become the Holy Grail of new brand loyalty models that are now relationship based versus transaction driven.
Gen X: Leadership 2.0
“Leadership has transformed significantly compared to a generation ago. The era where work merely equated to a paycheck has faded into history and jobs now mirror lifestyles and values, carefully selected by individuals looking for more purpose. It has now become the responsibility of leaders to embrace these new norms, while simultaneously focusing on the immediate tasks of the day, week, and quarter. In pursuit of this goal, the approach to leadership – encompassing inclusivity, intentionality, and accountability – no longer demands a trade-off between competing business goals. Instead, all components can thrive together.”
- Oren Zaslansky
CEO, Flock Freight
Gen X 2.0
"It will be fascinating to see what the era of latch key kids left to fend for themselves ... will do to enact the type of positive creative destruction that doesn’t just sound good in the Board Room, but actually delivers on the promise of making tomorrow better than today."
While the phrase “stakeholder capitalism,” put forth by Fortune Media CEO Alan Murray in his book Tomorrow’s Capitalist last year, may have not taken hold as broadly as we might have liked it to, the underpinnings of it as an idea that must guide the highest levels of leadership, absolutely has. Whether it is tackling everything from diversity, equity, and inclusion, to sustainability, to the undeniable realities and dire implications of climate change, what has become abundantly clear is that it is now essential for organizations to find ways of making their stakeholders feel anti fragile at a time when the notion of it seems almost absurd with a black swan event lurking around every corner. What can potentially make the difference this time and cut through the clutter of all the talk of equity and right sizing the environment these last few years? A new generation of senior leadership.
For the first time in about thirty years, Baby Boomers, known for their sometimes passive, lip service approach to management, are being replaced by Generation X at the highest echelons of corporate leadership. The often overlooked first Generation ever to be named for a letter and the one inextricably linked to the grunge and angst of the early aughts, is now on the receiving end of perhaps the greatest transference of leadership in modern history. Ironically despite its reputation, what Gen X likely will bring to the C-Suite is a refreshing hunger for real and meaningful change, and the self-accountability to get it done. It will be fascinating to see what the era of latch key kids left to fend for themselves, before the age of helicopter parenting came into vogue, will do to enact the type of positive creative destruction that doesn’t just sound good in the Board Room, but actually delivers on the promise of making tomorrow better than today.
Decision vs. Artificial Intelligence
“Intelligence is a sliding scale. It is the ability to learn and apply knowledge and skills. Humans have it, and ants have it (although some may say ants have instinct over intellect). My point is, intelligence has proved to be a very dangerous thing in humans, it takes people in very different directions and has led to catastrophe countless times. Therefore, unleashing ‘intellect’ on machines simply must be policed, aggressively. Having said that, when used in the right context, with the proper perspective, the results can and likely will be quite impactful.”
- Mike Cooper
Global CEO, DOmedia
Decision vs. A.I.
"What’s great about decision intelligence is that it leverages the power of AI and other technologies yet does so in ways that augment not replace human intelligence."
As all organizations continue to struggle to acquire and retain customers, being as human led in their approach to operationalizing AI as possible will be critical. Much of human decision-making is based on emotion and cognitive bias, not logic. Feelings inform thoughts, not the inverse, despite what conventional wisdom has told us to date. At BRANDthrō, we are using data science to understand more about employee/customer emotions and decisioning in a way that can be built into a company’s systems and processes at the day-to-day operational level. Using both math and direct human feedback, allows us to put guardrails around AI alone. Why? Because, AI alone does not provide the contextualization required to accommodate for social and cultural cues which can often lead to misinterpretation and misinformation.
For enterprises to succeed with AI they will need to address the gap between the technology and the business outcomes it hopes to achieve. This requires close measurement and evaluation as AI gets scaled across different environments within the enterprise. To do this, in 2024 expect to see more large organizations using AI enabled decision intelligence. Decision intelligence helps augment and automate business decisions by linking data with decisions and outcomes. It uses a combination of technologies like AI and ML to improve the way decisions are made.
What’s great about decision intelligence is that it leverages the power of AI and other technologies yet does so in ways that augment not replace human intelligence—a trend that will hopefully emerge more pervasively in the year ahead and help drive the market correction that’s required as a result of brands over indexing on AI and its wrongfully presumed omnipotent power in 2023.
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