10 Paradigm Shifts That Are Completely Rewriting Customer Behavior

Here, Ford Motor Co.’s in-house futurist, Sheryl Connelly, provides us with 10 paradigm shifts that are completely rewriting customer behavior, whether consumer or B2B. Here are 10 trends Connelly feels CEOs should be watching right now.

1. Failing, and sharing the lessons from those failures, are becoming both accepted and encouraged. Unlike in the past, “The stigma around failure is rapidly eroding, making us more motivated and determined than ever to take risks in the march toward success,” she said. Instead, “it has become something to flaunt: I failed, therefore I learned from my mistake and I am stronger for it.” Companies embracing the “failure-to-success” meme have included Domino’s Pizza, which in 2014 advertised that “failure is an option,” and FailCon, a six-year-old conference company that offers entrepreneurs and business leaders a “safe place” to share and learn from their failures.

2. The carry-less movement is upon us. “People don’t want to carry stuff” today, Connelly concluded. With more digital-payment schemes, of course, they don’t need to, while “the rise of subscription-based shopping services means we can avoid the store.” Wearable gadgets and smart watches help consumers avoid the need to carry more stuff. The ultimate application so far: In Spain, retail bank La Caixa, part of CaixaBank, has developed its own wristbands for customers who want to ditch the physical wallet and pay with a simple tap of the wrist.

“The stigma around failure is rapidly eroding, making us more motivated and determined than ever to take risks in the march toward success.”

3. More people are taking advantage of the ‘sharing economy’. This refers to everything from Uber and airbnb to owning partial shares in a cow to get fresh milk. “Renting and borrowing [are displacing] the need to buy,” Connelly observed, driven not only by altruism but also by “personal benefits like freedom from responsibility and maintenance.” This could result in dozens of new applications in B2B if CEOs and their executive teams started a conversation around the concept.

4. Watching Gen Z will put you ahead of the game. Today’s teenagers and pre-teenagers “are still too young to be universally recognized as a traditional cohort,” Connelly said. “Nevertheless, their point of view is compelling, and despite their youth, they are helping to shape the world we live in today.” Generation Z, those born after 1993, comprise more than 2 billion people globally, but “they aren’t going to let age, education, employment or lack of resources stop them from making their mark on the world.” They are “adept and self-directed researchers” of the Internet age,” Connelly noted, and only 64% of them are considering an advanced college degree versus 71% of the millennial generation.

5. Standing up for your beliefs and going against the grain are in vogue. Despite global issues such as war, disease and privacy concerns being at an all-time high, “there’s a palpable excitement in the air,” she said, as “consumers of all ages are inspired by modern day renegades and rebels, those who are bucking convention to set new standards and offer new ideas.” The marketplace “has never been more receptive” to these people than today. In fact, her research showed that 57% of Chinese adults under the age of 35 agreed, “I’m drawn to companies and brands that are rebellious,” while 46% of such Americans also agreed.

6. The definition of ‘friends and family’ is expanding. Sprint has abandoned their ‘framily’ ad campaign, but it was on target with a marketing platform that allowed customers to expand the traditional definition of “next of kin” to include whomever they wanted. As divorce rates continue to rise, same-sex marriage spreads and the traditional definition of family fades, “the concept of family adapts, expands and evolves in the most personal ways,” Connelly said, and companies need to look at how they can adjust their offerings and capabilities to maximize this opportunity.

7. Personal information can be bought. Privacy “has become a balancing act” with a “recognizable trade-off between the information consumers are willing to share about themselves and the benefits they receive in exchange,” Connelly said. The younger the consumer, the more this balance seems to tip in favor of disclosure; 56% of millennials, for instance, agree they’re willing to share their location with companies to receive coupons to nearby businesses, versus only 42% of those ages 35 and up.

8. Simpler is better. Forty-eight percent of Americans believe it’s easier to figure out how to do their own taxes than to figure out how to eat healthy. As a result, food and beverage manufacturers are becoming more innovative to convince consumers to eat more of what they should. Achieving optimal health “seems to be an uphill battle,” the futurist noted. “Consumers need a clear signal in the noise [of information]—not just another data dump—to effectively translate information into action.”

9. Powering down will become a priority. Escapism is more difficult these days than just curling up with a good book, watching a film or going for a walk. Because of 24/7 connectivity, Connelly observed, it’s more difficult to truly escape. Thus a whole new industry of “mindful escapism” is evolving. This includes scheduling sabbaticals and going to “brain gyms” that are popping up across the U.S. and UK, such as Equinox, which offers meditation classes, and Headspace, which offers short audio and visual presentations and asks members to set aside at least 10 minutes a day to escape life’s worries and reconnect with their inner self.

10. Roots are coming with wings. As a society, we “are streamlining our possessions and reexamining ‘home’ in the light of our transient lifestyle,” Connelly said. Seventy percent of global adults said they were open to unconventional methods of transportation; 80% of millennials expect to work abroad during their careers; and in China, there are more than 200 million electric-powered bicycles on the road, while in Brazil, sales of such devices are climbing by 200% a year.

While Connelly can’t foresee every development around the corner, her list of 10 trends for 2015 would be a good place for any business leader to start as they look for cues and clues for where consumers, their competition and their own business partners are headed.

 

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Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.

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