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The Futurist: Consumers in 2030

Can we truly know what consumers will be like in 2030? We have witnessed how the past 15 years have evolved, largely driven by technology.

History shows that there are always macroeconomic factors that  contribute to the marketing evolution driven by evolving consumer sophistication. During the production era, it was a sales-led economy that was influencing the business model. The marketing focus was predominantly on sales and distribution to drive revenue. As consumers became more resilient towards “sales tactics”, the marketing focus switched to a more persuasive approach using brand and advertising to entice consumers.

The marketing evolution continued to shift as technology introduced a more fragmented landscape driving new customer behaviour and expectations.When we analyse each generation, we can observe that each generation was subjected to very different leadership influence, landmark events as well as iconic technology.

Nevertheless,there are clear themes in each generation that addresses the socio-economic challenges of their era, moving from the theme of logistics to communications, mobility and now digital and data.

According to a report from CISCO, 37 billion new things will be connected by 2020. The digital experience will need to be contextual and satisfy today’s hyper-connected consumer by delivering both services and sales through any channel the consumer chooses to use. According to reports on the world’s population by the US Census Bureau, by 2030, 85% of the world’s productive population will comprise Gen Y and Gen Z. Only 15% of Gen X will remain within the productive age. This is a significant shift from 2015 where Gen Y was 44%, Gen X made up 38% and the Baby Boomers the remaining 18%.

Even today, Gen Y makes up the largest composition of the workforce and many of the issues at work are a result of outdated policies from the “traditionalist era”. The significance of this shift in the generation composition from 2015 to 2030 means that we are likely to see a major transformation of policies, economic concepts and possibly the end of capitalism.

With the current state of unemployment among new graduates, which is also driving a new era of the “gig economy”, consumers will likely have uncertain income, no employment benefits,and bear their own medical costs. In light of all these factors, what should we be preparing for to be ready for the consumers of the future?

The more immediate action is to review the IT investments. Are we investing in technology to catch up or should we leapfrog and start placing the building blocks for the future? Today’s Gen Y are predominantly non-brand loyalists and this has paved the way for new start-ups to achieve unprecedented scale in a very short time when it used to take brands decades to get there. But all this will evolve again as the new Gen Z have attributes of being brand evangelists.

Service orientation will evolve from high touch to self-serve to contextually always on. As such, marketers today focus a lot on multi-channels and omni-channels to serve the fragmentation created by diversely different generations operating in the economy in the same instance.

However, optimisation may be the way to go to tweak specific channels that performs the function best.

The writer is Mohamed Adam Wee, group CMO & group chief customer experience officer, CIMB. The article first appeared in A+M’s The Futurist print edition.