The digital world has reached a great level of maturity. The mastery of new technologies is no longer a condition for entry. Digital through smartphones, tablet computers, connected devices gives easy and democratic access to Web apps designed for the main public.
At the beginning, the Web was a new contact point between customers and brands. This was amplified by the advent of social networks. With such an easy access to these new technologies based on sharing, customers' expectations and behaviours have changed significantly and brands have had to adapt.
The customer has understood the power of social networks. The first objective of social media was to keep in touch with one's community. But today consumers are shifting from being spectators to being actors. Every individual counts and the customer knows this. The generation referred to as the "Millennials" - that is so well personified by the character of "Petite Poucette" in the book by the philosopher and historian Michel Serres – wants everything, immediately, in just a click.
The new and agile economic players that were born with the digital culture understood naturally the expectations of these new clients. Who could have predicted that Uber, a transportation network company (TNC), would revolutionize in just a few years the historical taxi industry? And this by connecting a request to an offer via a simple platform supported by powerful analytics. This new phenomenon of platform based companies has even come to be referred to as "Uberisation".
"Today consumers are shifting from being spectators to being actors."Start-up companies and Tech giants have engaged into this new era qualified as "third industrial revolution" by the well-known American economist Jeremy Rifkin and that started at the end of the 20th Century with the development of new information and communication technologies. Well-established companies need to reinvent themselves in the emerging new economic system of collaborative commons supported by social media, innovation and the sharing culture. Technological evolution is so phenomenal that it is no longer a competitive advantage as such and has necessitated a change of mindset from the established companies to maintain their identity.
One can witness the behavioural changes with this young generation that is very sensitive to the sharing economy through social networks. It's an ultra-connected generation: they are connected 24/7, 365 days a year and their first reflex in the morning is to open their Facebook news feed to discover what has happened during the past few hours (photos of their friends, local and international news, life of their favourite celebrities etc.)
"A brand needs to be present where the consumers are and this means in particular on social platforms (...) but a simple presence is not enough."In order to be considered today, a brand needs to be present where the consumers are and this means in particular on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat & co. But a simple presence is not enough. A brand is not only in competition with other brands, it is also in competition with the friends, family, favourite celebrities of its customers/prospects and in reality with anyone who stages his/her life on social media using a simple smartphone. When one considers that 90% of the content ever produced has been produced over the last 2 years, one realizes just how difficult it has become to emerge as a brand on social networks and to capture "available human brain time" of clients and prospects.
In reality the biggest competitors for brands in this battle for attention are the content creators such as the YouTubers who have understood how to talk to this new generation. For instance, PewDiePie, the biggest YouTuber in the world, generates 4 to 10 million views at each of his videos. He has over 48 million subscribers to his YouTube channel while a worldwide giant such as McDonalds only has 275 000...
Is it necessary for a brand to create content all year round to engage its audience on social networks? Brands just don't have a choice. For 50 years they have simply had to push a communication message every 6 months thanks to good media coverage on TV, in the press or on billboards to be present in consumers' minds. But this technique is no longer sufficient. Consumers are ultra-connected, 365 days a year. It is no longer conceivable not to have an ongoing presence where people are. As the expression puts it "Fish where the Fishes are" and the fishes nowadays are on social media.
So how can brands emerge in the long run in this ultra-competitive context? They need to develop their brand messages in a way that will improve and enrich the life of their audience. A brand that simply talks about the price-quality ratio will not interest their audience. Brands must show their tangibility and utility. This is especially true since when a person likes a brand on Facebook or Twitter, this person engages in an intimate relationship with the brand : he/she will embark it on his/her mobile and keep it in his/her pocket (84% of people are unable to do without their smartphone for one day). And just as in a couple, this intimate relationship needs to be worked on. If a brand posts on average 3 to 4 Facebook statuses and 7 Instagram/Twitter publications per week, this means it sends on average 900 messages per year to its target audience. It is therefore necessary to go from a relationship based on injunctions and interruptions to a truly engaging relationship with the objective to embark the audience and get it to like, repost, share the messages of the brand. In other words create a relationship that recognizes the key concept of reciprocity between the brand and its clients.
Easier said than done? It is merely common sense. Instead of concentrating on the way to engage in conversation with their targets, brands should ask themselves why they deserve to engage in conversation with them in the first place. "Why" instead of "how". And it is possible to discover "why" through the big data available on the Internet. Analysing the behaviours, issues, and interests of users is what will enable a brand to engage in a true relationship with its target. In a world where the pace of innovation is accelerating and is constantly creating greater expectations from consumers, this understanding is essential.
To better understand tomorrow's consumers here is a list of a few important 2017 trends that brands will need to embrace to better serve their clients: "bots", "virtual reality", "digital detox", "Artificial Intelligence" and "behaviour as currency" where people's behaviours become exchangeable currency. Last one is a trend to be followed very carefully...
The launch of "Peeple", the app that was supposed to allow anyone to rate other people, was aborted a few months ago following criticism over concerns of cyberbullying and possible abuses. Yet the idea that it will soon be possible to rate people in the way that one rates hotels and restaurants seems to be gaining ground. With the development of the "sharing economy" and services such as Uber and Airbnb, people's behaviours are already scrutinized, analysed and rated. Our behaviour is correlated to our reputation. What if our reputation was soon to become a currency that could be exchanged as the 1st episode of Season 3 of the British TV series Black Mirror seems to suggest? Lacie, the main character of the episode, lives in a world where only the people that have received the best rates from others are given access to the best services: apartments in the nice neighbourhoods, upgraded rental cars, last minute access to some flights etc.
"Brands should ask themselves why they deserve to engage in conversation."Without going as far as this scenario that implies a permanent quest for general endorsement, some companies are already rating the kindness of their clients and offering discount vouchers to the highest rated ones. In Australia the Seven Miles Beach Kiosk cafe in Gerroa doesn't only encourage its clients to be more polite, it even makes them smile : "a coffee: $5 ; a coffee please: 4,50$; hello, a coffee please : 4$". Also in Australia, the Art Series Hotel Group has recently launched the "Reverse Reviews" program: the employees of the hotel rate the clients. The best-rated clients receive free stays and upgrades that encourage of course everyone to be kind and in a good mood. The virtuous circle of behaviour as currency is a trend to be followed closely in 2017!