In the ContinuousNext* economy, the most successful brands will be those that leverage the power of ethics, sustainable practices, transparency, data and cloud computing*. They will combine them with compelling insights derived from real-time predictive data analytics. The output will be creatively inspired by personalised products and services. These will be designed with empathy to meet the evolving consumer desires, in line with their lifestyle, habits, behaviour and preferences.
This approach will be accompanied by a genuine desire to create and provide a memorable customer experience across all channels, touchpoints and brand interaction. Those indelible moments will be underpinned by ethical organisational practices and policies to build loyalty and drive future buying behaviour. The outcome for brands that can adapt at speed in this way will be growth and unprecedented scale within a short space of time.
A recent sample poll by Gartner in July 2019 showed that 86% of enterprises plan to monetise new digital business offerings in the near future, and 57% plan to do so within the next 12 months. Expect more competition and more disruption. The time to re-architect existing businesses, products and services are now. Bringing them in line with consumer demands of value, speed, quality, ethics, transparency and sustainability.
*ContinuousNEXT is a business strategy suggested by Gartner that urges companies to make change management an integral part of all operations. The five imperatives for chief information officers (CIOs) to implement a ContinuousNEXT strategy include: culture, privacy, augmented intelligence, digital product management and digital twin (a high-level view of the organisation that models systems, processes and worker interactions).
“*Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services – including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence – over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources and economies of scale. Typically, you only pay for cloud services you use, helping you lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently and scale as your business needs change.” Source: Microsoft.
Why established brands are slow to change and how to transform
Enterprises seek value, agility, speed to market, operational efficiency, cybersecurity and growth. However, corporate giants are often slow to change even in the face of competition. Some of the reasons include lack of brand vision and strategy, uninspiring leadership, outdated or ineffective infrastructure, platforms and systems, redundant tools, unadaptable organisational culture, cumbersome processes, lack of innovation, unwillingness to take risks, detrimental short-termism and organisational inertia. If not properly addressed, these behaviours will likely render those brands who practice them unattractive, uncompetitive, expensive and on track to become obsolete. Fortunately, many CEO’s are turning to consultancies to help them to address some of these issues. Most brands have begun their transformation journey towards their desired future state.
However, in light of this positive move, brands are still being held back by legacy systems, platforms and infrastructure. For many organisations, the total migration to cloud computing, although desirable, is not always realistic. The reasons are varied and sometimes contextual. For example, geopolitics and local regulation may be prohibiting factors. In spite of this, technological innovation, market competition, changes in regulation and cost continues to drive the need for change.
Data storage, processing and management is a critical part of a brand operation that enables large enterprises to operate at scale. Until recent times, data centres have mostly been responsible for the storage, processing and management of the vast data generated by operational activities. However, as cloud technologies continue to drive innovation and offer greater value, business leaders now perceive traditional data centres as costly, complex and high-risk. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will have closed down their traditional data centres - compared with 10% today.
Should this prediction materialise, it tells us that many large brands will have evolved their business models, operating models and delivery models within just a little over five years from now. Their ability to remain competitive will be at risk if they are left behind through a lack of transformation. Through automation, less labour will be required to produce the value created by global brands. Future enterprises will be leaner in terms of personnel headcount as a consequence. Greater innovation will become the norm. A plethora of new products and services will be launched regularly. Many products will also have a shorter lifespan than has previously been the case.
Now more than ever, innovation will be key to brand success. Cloud strategy will be part of business strategy, much in the same way as digital and data have become integral to business strategy. For the world’s largest enterprises, to determine the business-critical applications for modernisation, machine learning and automation will be used for speed and efficiency. Modernisation of the business-critical and mission-critical applications will become mandatory in order to maintain competitive advantage, and to reap the benefits of greater agility, speed to market and ROI.
At the opposite end of the transformation spectrum, brands that simply cannot transform because of deep-rooted organisational inertia may be forced to launch new standalone businesses to survive. Modern brands born in the internet era can easily leverage the benefits of cloud technologies, agile practices, a mobile workforce and a culture of continuous innovation. This has allowed them to circumvent the culture of maintaining the status quo, which is the norm in many established older enterprises.
Building a transparent and ethically-driven brand
Building a transparent and ethical brand should be a business strategy in the era of ContinuousNext. A publicly available record of ethically driven and transparent practices across the organisations’ supply chain will increase consumer trust and brand loyalty. Technologies such as Blockchain, distributed ledger technology (DLT), and Smart Contract may have a role to play from a trust and transparency point of view. It’ll take some time before these technologies pervade every facet of commercial operations. However, brands that can fully realise the potential of Smart Contract, will no doubt create new businesses and operating models that will generate new sources of revenues and strengthen their portfolio.
A simple example of how Smart Contract could be used is around social media audience data. Currently, all of your social media data is free to the platform owners because they host it for free for you on their platform. However, they also use your data from a data analytics point of view to develop targeting models and audience behaviour insights. This leads to targeted advertising that yields greater results and drives behaviour.
Additionally, they also use insights gathered from your data and usage to develop new products and services. Now, imagine a world where social media platforms pay each end user a set fee per megabyte of data for data stored on their platform (e.g. photos, posts, videos and files etc); and a secondary fee (royalty) per kilobyte of data for your data based on your active engagement (e.g. your likes, shares and comments etc). In this way, they pay you for the privilege of hosting your original data, for collecting further data based on your actual usage and interactions, and for the behavioural insights extracted from analysing your data and usage which they charge third parties for.
Both parties will benefit from the value exchange rather than the current one-way monetisation of audience (your) data. A Smart Contract could run in the background to monitor usage by the social media platform. This would be for instances when your data is being used for commercial benefit by the platform owner, their partners or third party customers. In this way, the end-user profits directly from their data.
The social media influencer economy was built on the monetisation of content and through having a significant number of followers. Thereby attracting advertisers. Similarly, every piece of data that leads to consumer or behaviour insights also has or should have a monetary value.
Consumers expect more than just a connected and seamless customer experience
Now more than ever, customer experience is imperative and critical to success. A successful brand is one that creates value to solve a particular consumer problem. Businesses grow by precisely identifying the needs of a target group and successfully and repeatedly meeting those needs. Brands lose their way when they forget their purpose or lose track of their core values and identity - which is often (or should be) to serve their customers flawlessly and diligently; with care and attentiveness.
When talking about customer experience, it’s easy to focus on just the visceral sentiments of ‘delighting customers’, ‘improving the customer journey and the like. Whilst these are extremely important and should not be understated by any means, we must look deeper and ask ourselves tougher questions as to what customers are really demanding or indeed expect from brands in terms of societal and social contribution. For example, “About 795 million people in the world were undernourished in 2014–16. That means one in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.” Source: United Nations.
Contrast this with the fact that as much as half of all the food produced in the world – equivalent to two billion tonnes – ends up as waste every year. Major supermarkets around the world have a role to play in solving these issues. Consumers expect brands to rise to the occasion and provide a viable solution, or at the very least become part of the solution. There’s also a market opportunity here for fresh thinking entrepreneurs and challenger retailers to create new business models that make ethical inroads to tackle this issue. I believe consumers will back such initiatives if only there were compelling commercial vision provided that genuinely seeks to address this.
The point being made here is that now more than ever, with a competitive global supply and distribution chain, affordable technology and accessible global markets, we can solve major global challenges if the will, vision and leadership are there. It isn’t just the role of governments and public institutions, the onus is on the privileged (the educated) to raise the standard of life for the human family. Ethical brands can help to lead the way, whilst still being profitable. Consumers will make the right decisions provided they have the facts to hand.
Established brands must evolve to remain relevant
Sometimes to move forward requires standing still, pausing and taking a deep breath. Thereafter, contemplate on your journey, taking stock of where you have come from and where you want to go before deciding the next step. For large organisations, this isn’t always easy or straightforward because of pressures to consistently perform and meet shareholders expectations.
In such circumstances, a dual strategy is required. One that moves forward whilst simultaneously standing still. Stillness allows for new ideas to be fleshed out. It allows for experimentation to occur. It allows for risks to be taken and investments to mature. Movement is about the motion to execute an existing plan that aligns with the existing strategy. In other words - business as usual and the generation of revenue to sustain the organisation and continue to meet its obligations.
For established brands, this bimodal existence is the new norm. Focusing on one without the other is a luxury reserved for either startup or for brands that don’t perceive longevity for themselves.
Evolving into brands that is sustainable, transparent and ethically driven is a direction well worth pursuing not only for its positive societal impact and profitable return. It is also a sure way to increase a brand’s life expectancy, protection of the planet and ensure that future generations will inherit a better world than the one we were all born into.
Here are some of the key points from this article. In order to succeed and grow in the age of the ContinuousNext, brands will need to act on the following insights:
The most successful brands will be those that leverage the power of ethics, sustainable practices, transparency, data and cloud computing. They will combine them with compelling insights derived from real-time predictive data analytics.
86% of enterprises plan to monetise new digital business offerings in the near future, and 57% plan to do so within the next 12 months. Expect more competition and more disruption. Prepare today to win tomorrow.
Brands that do not undergo digital transformation will be at risk of becoming obsolete within the next 5 years.
Brands that can fully realise the potential of Smart Contracts will create new businesses and operating models that will generate new sources of revenue and strengthen their portfolios.
Brands must play an active and visible role to solve some of the major challenges that impact societies and developing nations whom they trade with, or consume their natural resources and raw materials.
Established brands must allow for new ideas to be fleshed out, experimentations to occur, risks to be taken and investments to mature. Simultaneously meeting shareholders expectations and revenue targets. This has to be done by putting the customer first, operating efficiently, drive change and innovation whilst acting ethical, transparently and sustainably.