A mere 20 years ago, a song typically stayed on the Billboard Top 100 charts for 20 weeks. Right now, it’s closer to two weeks. Similarly, the skillset that would once last your whole career now requires a complete refresh every three to five years. Corporate longevity is also rapidly changing: in 2020, the average company lifespan on Standard and Poor’s 500 was just over 21 years, compared with 32 years in 1965. It’s expected to fall even further throughout the 2020s.
The half-life of relevance has never been shorter, and it’s no wonder: Technology advancements, cultural shifts, pandemics, and global conflicts are reshaping the world at record pace. And the resulting change isn’t just happening faster — it’s happening in a more profound way.
Facing this barrage of uncertain and chaotic external forces, people are rethinking who they are and what matters to them. In an Accenture survey of 25,000 global consumers, released in July 2022, 60% of them told us their priorities are changing based on global events. Nearly the same number say they’ve completely reassessed their life purpose and values in 2022, up from 50% in 2021.
As they reconcile these changes with the practicalities of everyday life, consumers are making paradoxical decisions. They want to shop based on values like sustainability — but they also want good value for their money. They want to act in their own best interest — but also effect change for others. In the absence of perfect solutions, they’re making choices the best they can in the moment.
Paradoxical decisions are not new, but the way people are accepting them is. In fact, nearly 70% of consumers told us that behaving inconsistently is very human and totally acceptable.
But consumers are also saying that businesses need to keep up. Around two thirds of customers feel that companies are not responding fast enough to their changing needs.
Meeting these needs — and unlocking the next great wave of growth for businesses globally — requires a new approach.
From Customer Centricity to Life Centricity
Over time, businesses have moved from a product-centric approach focused on performance to a customer-centric strategy meant to prioritize experience. But now, the dynamics are more complicated. Companies need to accept their customers as ever-changing, complex people deeply impacted by unpredictable external forces.
It’s time for life centricity.
Life-centric businesses are deeply attuned to the forces that most profoundly affect their customers’ lives, such as technology, health, and culture. They achieve relevance by bridging the interplay between these life forces and their customers’ everyday decisions. And they maintain that relevance by perpetually evolving their products, marketing, sales, and service experiences as life continues to shift.
Consider the case of Best Buy. The consumer electronics giant recognized that technology was a part of customers’ day-to-day activities — and could also be a source of stress, cost, and confusion as people tried to manage multiple products across incompatible ecosystems. So Best Buy created Totaltech, a new membership option that makes it easier to buy, set up, understand and enjoy tech products, plus fix them when something goes wrong. In making this life-centric shift, the company went from a place you go to buy technology to a “total life technology partner” for its members. They were able to see a growing need — not just around products or experiences, but around their customers’ full lives — and respond with a new offering that could adapt to changing circumstances and make people’s experience with technology easier.
Seeing customers’ full lives means finding ways to respond to changing cultural and social norms around technology. Japan’s Bank of Fukuoka saw use of traditional branches drop 40% over 10 years and needed a way to better serve digital natives who eschew the brick-and-mortar experience and who see money differently than previous generations. The result was Minna Bank, a cloud-driven banking system that leads with a frictionless mobile app and incorporates both financial and non-financial services. The end service is fun, simple, and turns the focus from money itself to what that money enables in people’s lives.
Likewise, Microsoft saw a growing gulf between the number of organizations in need of digital upgrades and the number of skilled developers available to do the work. The company launched Power Pages, a tool to empower users to rapidly build high-end, data-centric websites for complex business scenarios to reach their customers and community at scale, without needing to know how to code. Instead of just delivering a new product, Microsoft created something responding to larger life circumstances — with flexibility built in, so organizations can continue to adapt to changing needs. Organizations get a modern, secure, and reliable platform that allows them to adapt to massive changes and accelerate digital innovation, no matter their level of technical fluency, and customers get the seamless digital experience they need.
Moving Your Company Towards Life Centricity
To move toward life centricity, companies need to widen their strategic aperture. Digital transformation is part of the process, but it’s not enough on its own: Over and over, we have found this can help businesses keep pace today, but not necessarily get ahead or gain relevance tomorrow. Instead, the journey to life-centricity requires a three-pronged approach: See, solve, and simplify.
See customers in their full lives.
Instead of treating customers merely as “buyers,” businesses need to recognize them as ever-changing multi-dimensional people who play many roles, each providing new opportunities for value creation.
Businesses also need to expand their understanding of the forces that most profoundly affect customer’s lives. Customer analytics alone are no longer enough — monitoring changes in technology, culture, politics, health, the environment, and the economy in a much deeper way has to be part of the process.
Solve for shifting scenarios.
Life-centric businesses are prepared to deliver novel solutions in a constantly changing, resource-constrained environment, all while benefiting not just customers but all stakeholders. Rigid, one-size-fits-all products are unsustainable when people are allowing themselves to be inconsistent based on external pressures. By meeting unmet needs and offering adaptability, companies can stay relevant even as circumstances evolve.
Simplify for relevance.
Companies need to seek simplicity — not just in what they offer but in how they operate. Internally, organizations should prioritize interoperability across all customer-facing functions (such as product innovation, marketing, sales, service, and commerce), with an integrated technology stack across platforms and ecosystems.
Externally, customers are eager for anything that makes their decision-making easier. Companies can look to data, artificial intelligence, and human expertise to draw connections between people’s needs and the external life forces that are influencing them. Creating a bridge between the two helps customers get what they want — and helps businesses stay relevant.
Putting Life Front and Center
Truly life-centric businesses are only now beginning to emerge. And so, too, are the rewards. In July and August, we surveyed 850 worldwide executives and their businesses and found that companies that embrace life-centricity are far more likely to excel beyond their peers. Our analysis, which will be released this fall, suggests that life-centric businesses will on average achieve annual growth rates that are nine percentage points higher — that’s an increase of 900 basis points in their growth rates. In fact, we find that these companies lagging in life centricity are likely to see their revenues shrink year over year. For a $10 billion company, that’s the difference between growing $4B of new annual revenues after five years versus shrinking by $1B in the same period. Our analysis also shows that the life-centric companies are more resilient, materially outperforming on speed to market and customer lifetime value.
Customers are changing fast, but so are some of today’s leading companies. The risks are there, but so is the prize. Ultimately, companies can’t optimize their way to relevance in the future. Instead, they need to discover it by taking on a life-centric approach that allows the creativity, agility, and adaptability needed to thrive in tumultuous times.
The authors would like to thank Accenture research leads Agneta Björnsjö and Josh Bellin for their contributions to this article.
This content was originally published here.