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.