The impact of technology on consumers’ lives is undeniable. In fact, a large part of the conversations we’ve had in the newsroom in 2023 have revolved around AI and its impact on marketing.
As we inch towards 2024, how will this conversation evolve?
According to a recent report by Accenture, there are five key aspects that will monumentally change consumers’ preferences. The report surveyed from respondents across 21 countries with 15,227 respondents in August 2023 to validate the magnitude of the trends.
We decode these five trends and how marketers can better understand and prepare for 2024.
Better customer experience
Businesses are scrambling to cut costs and protect profits against a strained economic backdrop. However, this erodes customer experiences. According to Accenture, 37% of people worldwide think that companies are prioritising profits over customer experience.
Many consumers see brands quietly reversing the promises brands made when they were customer-obsessed, and feel the impact on their finances and quality of life.
One area that has seen prominence is “shrinkflation”. An example of shrinkflation would be charging as much or more for a chocolate bar that looks the same but weighs less or with lesser quality and cheaper ingredients.
Another area taking a hit is customer experience where a third of the respondents report difficulty in getting help from or reaching customer service agents in the past year. The potential revenue loss for businesses failing to manage complaints properly could reach US$887 billion, up from US$494 billion in 2020, said the report.
Customers can also find purpose-led initiatives contradictory as they see brands sinking money into support for causes while shaving value off their experience. Many see brands using purpose messaging to distract them from their degraded experience.
Leading reasons as to why customers feel less valued is due to poor customer service (47%) and ignored feedback (41%).
Customers will always try to create their desired lifestyle, but when finances are hit brand loyalty weakens. Price and value become the most influential levers.
A major brand challenge will be to stay in people’s basket. As such they must rekindle customer loyalty and renew their focus on customer experience as a route to growth. Businesses need to have joint ownership of the experiences between service, marketing, and design teams to deliver consistent value to customers.
Shift into Gen AI
According to the report, people have a transactional relationship with the internet, however with the rise of conversational interfaces, this is about to change. People will be able to steer machines in new ways and machines will be able to interpret people in finer detail, unlocking new behaviors, attitudes, and expectations for their digital interactions—and brands will be caught in the middle.
The report highlights that AI has the ability to make people feel understood digitally through large language models (LLMs) prompting a significant shift in how people relate to the world around them and have more relevant experiences.
At the same time, conversation AI such as ChatGPT is a prime opportunity for enhanced customer engagement and personalitation and 77% of respondents know about the function. Less than a year after the launch of ChatGPT, 12.9% of people globally said this tool or similar would be their main method to help plan a vacation.
Information discovery is moving from search to more conversational, which is far more flexible, nuanced and personalised. This means that personalisation in commerce will likely be redefined due to this shift. Customers will demand from brands what they want, with context, personalising their own commerce experiences through conversation.
Interpreting those conversations and delivering the right answer and service, at the right moment will enable organisations to deliver real time relevance.
Mediocrity across brands
We live in the golden age of content. Currently, more content and products are available to consumers than ever before, yet the larger pool of content means that standouts are harder to find.
One reason for the sea of sameness could be because of the tough economic conditions. When economic conditions are tough, organisations usually start reducing budgets for creativity and innovation, making many cautious about taking risks and settling instead for what’s worked in the past – resulting in more of the same. The scale has tipped towards familiarity instead of novelty.
Another factor that constrains creative output is technology templates. TikTok banks on user-generated content, but sounds and visuals are often reused by creators. According to the report, 35% of respondents find app designs indistinguishable across brands.
The algorithm doesn’t just influence content production choices, but preference culture, such as the preference toward short form vertical videos.
Brands are then put in a position where strategies that enable them to stand out and drive revenue simultaneously are needed. With technology placing a certain level of creativity more within reach, originality is at risk of being undervalued.
As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing.” According to a YouGov survey, 45% of global respondents find their shopping experiences dull.
The mediocrity problem would most likely become increasingly complicated, and an algorithmic aesthetic will quickly become a commonplace.
On the other hand, differentiation could become easier. People now have the technology to create decent images, but few are on display in galleries. Reliance on human creativity could thus set brands apart. Therefore, organisations should be interrogating what modern creative excellence is, and what it looks like for them.
Overuse of technology
Technology’s relationship with humanity has been positive, but not as straightforward as we think.
According to the survey, the more techn people use, the more likely they were to agree that technology had complicated their lives as much as it had simplified it.
There’s a growing unease that technology is becoming something that happens to people, rather than for them. Ipsos Global Trends 2023 found that in the UK, people are increasingly agreeing with the statement “I fear technological progress is ruining our lives”.
People have started to be fearful for their jobs and more confused about the possible impact of new technology, where long-term reality rarely matches the short-term promise.
The report found that 47% of people find the speed of new technology overwhelming.
Different services have also started to emerge in response to technology’s contribution to widespread loneliness.
In reality, it’s impossible to judge whether people have reached their limit with technology with both psychological and practical factors at play.
People will soon have to make important decisions to create a future that ensures the wellbeing both of themselves, and of the planet. More people are seen to try to boost their own personal resilience against technology by stepping away, which may signal a larger societal rebalance in favour of a more analog life.
Governments and tech giants should be investing substantially in digital literacy to better educate users on the effects of technology on their lives and their health. A global impact is expected if people take more responsibility for their own wellbeings.
The best approach is for businesses to become part of the solution as people slowly want to take back control of their relationship with technology.
Shifting of life priorities
Society today has moved forward in thinking, inclusion, and equality. However, due to rising costs and changes in attitudes, long-term planning now feels like a luxury to many.
Whether through systemic limitations or a growing sense of individualism, these big moments are scattering demographics in turn.
One pool of people would be from the younger demographic. For example, access to education is good news, but this makes a degree a weaker differentiator when trying to secure a job. We’re starting to see a shift towards skills-based hiring.
Achieving financial stability simply isn’t possible for many. An Ipsos poll found that more than half of Gen Z are concerned about rising inflation and the cost of living, with just 39% saying they earn enough to live on.
Another pool of people would be the seniors. Even as people are living longer thanks to medical technology, retirement is now a pipedream for some and a more advanced age for many.
The point for brands, is that traditional milestones have always been critical to defining customer journeys but now, customers are adopting unconventional mindsets that will trigger a new perspective for products and services.
People are shifting their focus to less defined goals like mental wellbeing and personal enrichment. The flexibility people now exercise makes it harder for brands to assume needs and wants based on definable factors.
Financially, a faction of people will spend whatever they have on fun and travel, and worrying about family, career and housing later. Flaws in the systems that are supposed to support people’s lives mean they can’t keep pace with their ever-changing demands, implying a constant pressure for change.
Brands must retire assumptions about how people choose to live and adapt to customers’ evolving needs. Understanding customers individually is key, banking on shifts that support new lifestyles will resonate as marketing stories that represent customers’ reality.
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