How Businesses Stay Relevant With Rapid Cultural Change

Alex Wright, Head of Insight, Blis

 

There’s an easy answer here, and a harder one. The easy answer is to achieve scale quickly. If your company is a small startup, scale up as fast as possible. Gathering scale leads to even more scale, and the result of that, usually, is a lot of buzz. If your company is larger, the smart move is to buy one of those small, buzzworthy companies. Why build when you can buy – especially when your acquisition target is already getting noticed?

Sometimes, Staying Relevant is Bigger Than Marketing: It’s a Matter of Keeping Markets Stable
Of course, not every company can simply scale up and be acquired, contrary to popular belief. Some industries are slow to adopt; others are losing steam. Financial services is an excellent example of a slow adopter. Strict regulations create obstacles to adoption, so this industry lags in almost every aspect of technology. Considering how younger generations tend to avoid banks, preferring cash machines, online banking and apps like Venmo, the industry’s reluctance to embrace mobile is concerning.

In the case of FinServ, the industry has lost people’s trust, and that’s why businesses risk losing ground to apps like Venmo and PayPal, which work around banking institutions. The first step, in this industry’s case, is to be humble and admit to the mistakes they’ve made in the past. Banks and other financial institutions need to get on side with the generations that are driving today’s changes.

It’s worth noting that these institutions probably belong in the various processes that involve moving funds from one party to another: disintermediation could ultimately harmful for everyone. While I’m personally in favour of democratising things and giving everyone equal access to banking, there’s risk involved. Here in the UK, we’ve had low interest rates for the past few years – since the global financial crisis. With the rising costs and stagnant wages we’re seeing now, a rise in interest rates could lead to financial hardship for many people.

With that in mind, should disintermediated peer-to-peer or micro lending grow, there’s potential for people and businesses to take advantage of the less fortunate and less savvy. For the greater good, banks need to get up-to-speed with these mobile trends to oversee transactions and put themselves back into the process. Ironically, the same regulations that currently hold them back could ultimately make mobile banker safer for everyone moving forward.

Retailers Need Mobile to Complete Their Omnichannel Strategies and Keep Customers Happy
In the UK, the growth of ecommerce is a hot topic. And yet, the rumours of retail’s decline appear to be greatly overstated. Only 16 percent of retail pounds are spent online. While that’s an increase, it’s not exactly killing the High Street. The “digital natives” may love to shop on their phones and tablets, but they love to hang out and shop at stores, as well. Gen Y and Gen Z remain active offline shoppers, despite their many daily hours of screen time.

Retailers are not in bad shape, but they do need to get on board with omnichannel if they want to avoid future problems. For starters, shoppers now expect 24/7 store access, so retailers need to have online and mobile stores that work well. These shoppers also expect to be able to purchase something online and, if necessary, return it to the store – without getting a hard time. After all, they bought the product from your store, regardless of the channel by which they completed the purchase.

It’s a paradigm shift, ultimately: the brand is now the destination, not the local store. Online and offline do not exist in the customers perspective, so they shouldn’t exist in the retailer’s view either.

The Real Mobile Impact

The various channels by which consumers now access content have resulted in fragmentation across social, economic and political demographic groups. It’s important for marketers to try to understand these fragments and what they mean. There are so many more nuanced behavioural segments, and they’re revealing differences between ourselves and our peers that we hadn’t realised were present before. To try to understand cohorts like this at such massive scale is going to become increasingly challenging.

To add to the confusion, we have a tendency as an industry to divide audiences into age brackets and assign behaviours en masse to these “generations.” But generations are too wide to encompass the change that can occur within just a few years’ time. The brackets should be half what they are; for example, if you were at school with someone, you are of the same generation. That’s a bracket of just a few years, but people within those brackets will have the same frames of reference. They’ll have watched the same TV shows, read the same books, played the same video games, bought the same brand of jeans or socks.

Cultural frames of reference are now shifting so quickly because of the immediacy of everything. This is precipitated by access to media, which is now both very personal and very portable. It’s something brands should be acutely aware of: the consumer now has a touchpoint with your brand available at all times, either in their hand or in their pocket. That not only means that brand has to be always on, but also always relevant. Study those fragments and learn who your users really are, and relevance will be less of a struggle.

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