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Servant brands + scaled individualization will power the new aaS economy.

Published Q4, 2021
by Billee Howard, Co-Founder

If accelerated transformation was the theme of 2020, brands quickly figuring out how to be customer-obsessed was the North Star of 2021 and will definitely continue to be a major priority in the year ahead. With consumers more in control than ever before with everything from their data, to their expectation of increasingly intuitive value delivery, brands need to agilely innovate in order to be responsive to consumer behavioral shifts that are happening in near real-time. Because of all these factors and the likelihood of their intensification in 2022, following are a few key points on the horizon that must be kept sharply in focus as the new year approaches:

2022 Key Considerations

1.

Brands will be required to push from personalization to individualization in order to achieve 1:1 customer intimacy at scale in our new service-oriented environment.

2.

‘Servant brands’, those who go beyond purpose to ask themselves “How can I help, or be of service to you?”, not only in times of crisis, but every day, will be tomorrow’s leaders.

3.

Critical to success for servant brands (and all others) will be a need to transform from data- driven, to insights-led, at the enterprise level in order to unearth critical ground truths and more intricate customer understanding.

4.

Contextualization around each and every customer experience will be the new strategic imperative. It’s what will enable brands to steadily pivot from one-off transactions, to relationship building interactions.

With that all 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 Lee Applbaum, Rama Mallika, Kirti Naik and Carlos Zepeda, highlighted within.

To learn more about how to create your own Insights OS to best navigate these trends, click here.

INSIGHT 1

The aaS Economy.

"...you’ve got to do one thing really well: demonstrate value that makes customers want you to be a part of their daily lives..."

"In the year ahead and beyond, organizations will really need to think about getting into the customer's headspace (and those that most influence them) much earlier."

One of the biggest shifts coming out of all the rampant change precipitated by the pandemic has been the migration of product-driven brands to as-a-Service organizations. Today, no matter what you are selling, you ultimately must not only get someone to just transact with your brand, but subscribe to it. To do this, be it in a B2B or B2C context, you’ve got to do one thing really well: demonstrate value that makes customers want you to be a part of their daily lives.

Making this transition involves developing different marketing strategies and an entirely new set of muscle memory. The big change is old methods for product marketing don’t work anymore. It can no longer be about making that one big sale. Today you must introduce a service-based model and focus on providing value and driving relationship building. We live in a world in which people are seeking to move past utilitarian transactions, to meaningful interactions, with the brands they love most.

To succeed today in a new world order driven by 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 go in and make sure to put the very specific triggers in front of them. In the year ahead and beyond, organizations will really need to think about getting into the customer’s headspace (and those that most influence them) much earlier. To do so, will require a lot more discipline around implementing processes that are iterative and capable of straddling product/service scenarios, simultaneously.

INSIGHT 2

On Demand: Insights OS.

"Brands will need to create their own Insights Operating Systems (OS) to up-level ... and find a strategic way of putting insight into action across the enterprise."

There has been much talk recently about the democratization of insights and that is because they have never been more important, not only to a company’s institutional knowledge base, but to driving market capitalization. As a result, they are rapidly becoming a vital engine of business that far transcends the marketing function. In order to accelerate niche level transformation and hypergrowth, being able to use the insights function to action strategy implementation, which catalyzes both top-down and bottom-up change, is critical.

To successfully build a dynamic insights function that aligns with transformation efforts, line of sight into each customer segment, at every stage of the customer journey, is required. Doing that without rigor ends up with thousands of data points that ultimately become meaningless. Brands will need to create their own Insights Operating Systems (OS) to up-level that type of thinking and find a strategic way of putting insight into action across the enterprise. Essential to doing this will be asking emotive, human- oriented questions that yield intelligence around not just the what, but the why. Why people choose brands, why they pay more for brands, and why they trust and stay loyal to them.

INSIGHT 3

The AI Powered Flywheel.

"The proactive evolution of flywheel models that are powered by AI and shared enterprise wide, will be vital to brand success in the years ahead."

Just as video long ago killed the radio star, the flywheel has officially pushed the traditional marketing funnel close to extinction. The marketing funnel model has been falling out of fashion for years, but as CX continues to be the number one driver of growth, its demise seems a fait accompli. Why? Because it is an approach that focuses more on getting one-time customers, rather than repeat ones, which is antithetical to the service-oriented relationship building models brands are seeking to generate with their customers.

The flywheel framework enables the customer to be placed at the epicenter of the enterprise and in order for it to be effective, it’s got to move in lockstep with the consumer landscape. The proactive evolution of flywheel models that are powered by AI and shared enterprise wide, will be vital to brand success in the years ahead. Doing this will give rigor to the push toward perpetual delight and motivate customers to keep coming back.

A flywheel powered by continuous data and AI will also help keep different parts of a brand engine going and innovations that take place in one department, or team, can be easily transferred to other parts of the organization. Using an AI flywheel framework will also help brands keep a significant focus on providing great CX, steeped in value, and do it in a way that feels elegantly effortless. All of this ultimately will lead to pathways of not just acquisition, but the ultimate metrics of success: organic growth and retention.

INSIGHT 4

Individualization At Scale.

"The path forward? Brands need to incorporate additive data sources to generate loyalty and acquire new customers. By using additional lenses on top of zero and first party data, brands can drive improved context via things like emotion and weather, to better enable scaled 1:1 commercial intimacy."

Data without context is just information. Only by adding a layer of emotion on top of existing data can we get to true insight and customer understanding. Because of this, contextualization has never been more critical to business success. Today’s environment is mandating the creation of customized buyer journeys at a time when consumer sentiment is shifting not quarter by quarter, but minute by minute. Throw in the demise of the third party cookie and you have a world with increasingly limited visibility into buyer behavior, when customer expectations have never been higher.

The path forward? Brands need to incorporate additive data sources to generate loyalty and acquire new customers. By using additional lenses on top of zero and first party data, brands can drive improved context via things like emotion and weather, to better enable scaled 1:1 commercial intimacy.

Without that type of more surgical customer understanding, a big chasm will continue to exist between personalization and individualization, which Forrester hailed as mission-critical for customer-obsessed organizations. In order to close this gap, brands need to make a giant leap from data that allows them to know it’s someone’s birthday, to insights that demonstrate their ability to consistently make them smile. This will be more important than ever in a service driven economy where customer value delivery is not only a mounting expectation, but an indisputable prerequisite for success.

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