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2020 – the year of the ‘conscious consumer’ and customer-centric personalisation 

2020 - the year of the 'conscious consumer' and customer-centric personalisation 

By Vijayanta Gupta, Global VP of Strategy and Industries, Sitecore 

Today consumers expect more from the brands they shop with than ever before, demanding convenience, personalised experience and quality products and services. To attract and retain customers and be able to successfully compete, brands must deliver on these expectations. This involves taking a more customer-centric approach to brand engagement and commerce, by understanding what truly matters to consumers and making it the focus of their business strategy, from ensuring they offer real value, protect customer data and embrace new models of commerce that enhance the customer experience.

In this article, I explore the changes in both consumer behaviour and technology that we can expect to see in 2020, and what brands can do to ensure they embrace and capitalise on them.

The continued rise of the ethical consumer

Last year, nearly half (49%) of consumers under the age of 24 stated that they had avoided a product or service due to its negative environmental impact in the last year. In addition, consumers now expect more from businesses – with 81% of them saying it is the responsibility of companies to help improve the environment.

In line with this growing awareness, 2020 is likely to bring even greater consumer concern about the negative impact that their purchasing decisions have on the planet. As a result, more individuals will be willing to purchase more expensive products if they are ethically sourced, recyclable or zero-waste, and seek out new brands that meet these requirements – especially as eco-friendly options like electric cars become more accessible to many. To remain successful in the face of this changing consumer mindset, brands must place greater focus on telling the story of what they stand for and their environmental or sustainability policies, as simply marketing and selling a product will no longer appeal to many.

 From brand-centric to customer-centric personalisation

 Brands are also likely to strive to make personalised marketing more customer-centric. In the past, they have based personalisation efforts around the products they want to sell, showing certain products to individuals at the time and place that they are thought to be most likely to purchase them. However, consumer needs, preferences and requirements are now driving this communication between brand and customer, and brands are being forced to put their sales objectives within the context of delivering what the customer really wants.

Advanced technology will play a greater role in this use of personalisation, as more brands are set to invest in AI tools and algorithms which can support personalisation. However, the development of messaging and storytelling around brand purpose and values will likely remain in the hands of human marketers. I expect 2020 to be the year where we will start to see brands building as well as balancing between two distinct capabilities to gain competitive advantage – machine-driven, personalised customer engagement at scale, and human creativity-driven brand engagement that articulates and informs the brand purpose.

The data value exchange

The ‘conscious consumer’ is also likely to have more awareness around data privacy, cybersecurity and if, when, and where they share personal information. As brands require large amounts of consumer data to be able to put customer needs and preferences at the heart of marketing strategies, ensuring they access, use and store it securely and responsibly will be more important than ever – while offering value to the customer in exchange. 2020 could be a pivotal year in this space with the potential to trigger a snowballing effect of increased and consistent legislative protection for consumers privacy – especially with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) coming into effect in addition to the continued implications of adhering to GDPR requirements for the brands.

2020 – the year of ‘Super Apps’ and new business models

The ever-growing number of internet users has prompted the emergence of new business models such as the subscription services already offered in a variety of industries – from Netflix in media and entertainment to Stitch Fix in apparel retail through to services like Care by Volvo in the automotive sector, allowing brands to reach out to consumers directly. Another interesting example, in 2019, the Kellogg company launched a ‘direct-to-consumer’ kitchen in partnership with Deliveroo, offering a menu that is completely run by the manufacturer, meaning that Kellogg’s products would reach customers without using a retailer as the middleman, while extending its brand outside of the breakfast bowl. Just like the last mile broadband internet connectivity into our homes powered up the eCommerce revolution, this last mile delivery connectivity into the home of the consumer will spawn off new revenue streams, and possibly new business models, for existing as well as emerging brands.

 Increasingly we will see Apps such as Deliveroo exploit their app platform to offer more services than just their core service, which will give rise to the increase in usage of ‘Super Apps’. The Super App phenomenon has already taken place in China and South East Asia with apps such as WeChat and Grab. WeChat can be used for messaging, paying utility bills, online shopping, ride-hailing, booking doctor’s appointments, and much more, while Grab can be used for ride-hailing, payments, food delivery and courier services. I expect the UK and other Western economies to catch up with this phenomenon in 2020 and consequently the consumer attention gravitating towards a handful of Super Apps on their mobile device in the long run.

Amplifying these apps as communication channels to deliver personalised content to consumers is going to become a really important tactic for brands in their efforts to reach their target audiences. ‘Super Apps’ can be a crowded space for brands to shine, so using personalisation is key to be able to differentiate your brand’s offering, right from the get-go.

A year from now I expect us to have at least three examples of ‘Super Apps’ and at least a dozen other ‘Kellogg – Deliveroo – type’ services available for UK customers.


From furlough to returning to work – employees are feeling insecure in their future

From furlough to returning to work - employees are feeling insecure in their future 1

New data looking into 6,273 employees, commissioned by Perkbox, the employee experience platform, has revealed the considerable impacts of the furlough scheme and the prospect of returning to work to wellbeing.

The research revealed that despite being a job retention scheme, furlough has led to a huge 61% of workers on the scheme with concerns over their future job security, and a further 42% have concerns about the future of their company due to their employer’s participation in the scheme. This is despite almost half (45%) enjoying the time off and break from working that this time provided. 

Furthermore, it’s not just those a part of the scheme that are feeling the impacts. Almost 1 in 5 (19%) who weren’t furloughed by their employers (but their companies did utilise the scheme) felt more secure in their job by not being chosen to be a part of it. 

The scheme hasn’t just led to insecurities, it’s also led to potential rifts between colleagues. 29% of those on furlough felt guilty about not working, while over 1 in 5 (21%) felt guilty for extra work that colleagues had to take on in their absence. Those who remained working over this period had to work harder (19%), experience more stress due to taking on extra responsibilities (18%), which ultimately impacted emotional wellbeing (16%). Resulting in 1 in 10 feeling resentful for their furloughed colleagues’ time off. 

As insecurity levels are high, employees expect company leaders to take personal action before considering redundancies. A huge 65% stated that they believe senior leadership should take a pay cut first, before considering options for staff – just 14% responded that they wouldn’t expect this from their leaders.

Moreover, as the furlough scheme changes, many are returning to work by encouragement of the Government. Despite this encouragement, less than half of employees (47%) feel safe in regard to returning to work (equal between office and non-office based workers), with almost a quarter (24%) feeling ‘unsafe’ about this transition.

Looking at what companies have done to prepare for a return to work, it comes as no surprise as to why employees may be apprehensive. Just 15% of businesses have set a fixed date for returning to work, a further 22% of employees have received no clear guidance on how to return to work. Furthermore, less than a third (31%) reported that their employer had implemented all of the necessary safety equipment to return to work, with just 30% establishing a clear back to work plan. 

Just 4% state that their company is planning to switch to completely working from home – begging the question of when companies are planning to communicate back to work plans. 

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Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key

Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key 2

By Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

As lockdown restrictions ease for the foreseeable future, conversations across the business world are starting to turn to how employers can safely and seamlessly prepare for their workforce to return to the office.

Research from Robert Half has found that over half (54%) of employees are worried about working in close proximity to their colleagues, while a similar proportion are eager to return to the office due to loneliness working from home (45%) or concerns about missing out on career opportunities (30%).

Unsurprisingly, after everything companies and their employees have done to successfully adapt their operations and working practices to social distancing rules over the last few months, immediately returning to the old ways of working will likely neither be sensible or practical. With safety being the key priority for the ‘new normal’ of office life – communication, flexibility and preparation should be the main focus areas for employers.

With this in mind, what are the challenges and opportunities that employees anticipate as they prepare for the return to work, beyond government and industry supplied health and safety best practice? Furthermore, how can employers best support their staff during this period?

Keep people at the heart of change

It is important to recognise that your workforce has been working through an intense period of uncertainty and change for months, which can be incredibly unsettling. On top of this, working for weeks in isolation without the usual physical interactions with team members could be potentially detrimental to employee engagement and mental wellbeing.

Having adjusted to keep staff connected with one another from a distance with virtual team building exercises, video calls and daily check-ins, as teams begin working in hybrid models with some in the office and others remote, staff engagement will need to adapt again.

Managing people with greater sensitivity and maintaining positivity throughout will be crucial. To help instil a sense of normality and engagement, encourage maximum collaboration between individuals (in accordance with social distancing rules), and make sure teams feel part of company goals and opportunities through regular meetings and communication – no matter their location.

Continuing to invest in technology and offering flexibility will also be important to ensuring that people can continue to work remotely or on-site, either in accordance with their own wishes or as part of your staggered return-to-office plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate (and listen)

Reassuring staff that they are able to safely return to the office will require continuous communication. From expectations of the physical office, to expectations of how to operate within hybrid teams, these new expectations and new workplace requirements should be communicated to all staff clearly to avoid confusion.

Regular email updates, updates on the company’s intranet and social media channels, as well as frequent town hall meetings (either online or in a smaller setting) could be key elements of an effective communications approach.

Also, consider a feedback channel to allow staff within the team to offer thoughts on their experience of returning to the office and any suggestions on improving the process. Whether on a company-wide basis or a team-by-team approach, schedule regular check-ins to engage with employees’ questions and concerns.

Maintaining open communication channels with your team will be essential for keeping up employee morale and ensuring clarity. For example, if some employees aren’t comfortable with coming to the office every day, then they should have plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and have them dealt with promptly, respectfully and fairly.

Staggered return-to-office planning

Depending on the size of business and density of office space, maintaining home working arrangements across teams on an alternating basis could make it easier to implement safe social distancing. This involves select teams working remotely while others work on-site on any given day.

An alternating approach to remote working might also reduce the risk of staff feeling pressured or overwhelmed by an immediate return to the office five-days-a-week. After all, some families might be juggling temporary disruptions to childcare arrangements and public transport systems will likely become crowded again. So, a transitionary period will help everyone adjust to post-lockdown office working.

Finally, if you have developed your technology infrastructure to facilitate remote working, you would do well to continue to leverage these new capabilities as in all probability, a mixture of remote and at-office work will be needed for some time.

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Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy  

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   3

Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.  

Unlike most applicants who will deploy funds through a single brand, Contis is taking a completely different approach. The funding will be used to drive fintech innovation in the UK by developing an off the shelf, B2B electronic and card payment technology platform for SMEs. With Contis’ powerful tech stack and regulated status, this will empower hundreds of fintechs to support the SME market with groundbreaking technologies, payments and lending capabilities. Contis today services over 800,000 consumer accounts, 14,500 business accounts and processes £4bn in transactions per year, demonstrating a proven track record.   

UK businesses are facing a challenging economic environment with the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit. As large corporations and entire sectors are affected, SMEs will play a vital role in the recovery. Contis’ approach is completely disruptive, offering three channels to maximise support for SMEs and sole traders, through three unique brands, all powered by APIs from Contis’ modular and configurable engine. 

1.       Canvas for Business 

Contis is a super-vendor in the world of fintech, offering payments through proven banking rails and card scheme capabilities including issuing pre-paid, debit and virtual cards. They’re linked to digital delivery like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a trusted tech stack that boasts 99.99% uptime.  

With funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), Contis’ technology and regulated services will be made available to the whole fintech community, enabling them to provide dedicated SME accounts with the latest leading-edge capabilities delivered via Contis’ wholly owned, secure, cloud-based technology and apps. Contis’ solution has a firm eye on the need for SMEs to compete internationally, particularly after Brexit, and offers FX integration as standard.  

Canvas for Business will increase competition by providing fintechs serving the SME market with technology that outstrips the big banks. Contis will also provide credit referencing capabilities and empower fintechs to lend to their SME client base through Contis’ own credit licence. Without the constraints of legacy systems, it will enable simple connectivity to accounting and payments solutions, as well as to unlimited future innovations.  

2.       Engage for Business 

Over 150 Credit Unions currently use Contis’ Engage service and technology, and hold an estimated £400 million in undeployed cash reserves. Developed with CIF funding, Engage for Business will enable Credit Unions to launch business accounts and payments products for the first time, and allow excess funds to be redeployed in the SME sector through business support loans. This will revolutionise access to funding for sole traders and small businesses. 

3.       Freedom for Business 

With CIF funding, Contis will also offer large scale SMEs a direct-to-market solution where Contis holds the relationship and provides a bespoke offer to meet the business’ exact needs. 

Contis’ application to the Capability and Innovation Fund is focused on creating the widest possible impact for UK SMEs by fulfilling their accounts & payments needs and driving innovation in SME financial services. 

Through the grant, Contis will empower over 200 fintechs and Credit Unions to provide credit, simplify payments integration into everyday business needs, offer digital credit referencing, provide budgeting tools to SMEs, enable automated payments, give predictive insight on cash flow, provide rewards to SMEs on spending, and much more. 

Peter Cox, Founder and Executive Chairman of Contis said: “Our mission is to democratise payments and financial services for all SMEs, so they’re spoilt for choice with innovative and affordable solutions that meet their exact needs. Our approach, based upon proven technologies, will broaden and disrupt the services available to SMEs far beyond the capabilities of existing providers such as the big banks.  

“By driving competition and innovation, while improving the availability of funding, our approach will increase the services on offer to SMEs and make them more affordable, therefore becoming easier for every entrepreneurial person with vision to run their own businesses.” 

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