Companies struggle to be relevant to customers — Accenture

The latest research by Accenture, “The Human Paradox: From Customer Centricity to Life Centricity,” saw customer expectations of companies to immediately connect with them. According to the research, two-thirds or 67% expect companies to understand and address their changing needs during times of disruption while 81% of executives are aware of the accelerated behavioral changes.

However, the disconnect between what companies provide and consumer expectations are apparent.

“To bridge the gap, businesses need to see their customers as they see themselves: multifaceted, complex, and doing their best to adapt to unpredictable life circumstances; and use that insight to meet customers’ evolving needs,” Accenture said in a media release.

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The majority (88%) of executives believe that customers and employees are changing faster than they can change their businesses, which is leading to a crisis of relevance.

“External factors — from economic to cultural, environmental and political – are affecting people more than ever before, making life more complicated and purchasing decisions more multi-faceted,” said Baiju Shah, chief strategy officer, Accenture Song. “There is a growing divide between what consumers need and value and what businesses offer, creating a relevance gap. We believe that companies can bridge this gap and herald significant growth by not focusing on promoting consumption, but in meaningfully contributing to customers’ lives.”

The research is based on a survey of more than 25,000 consumers across 22 countries, focuses on the gap between people’s expectations of what businesses should be providing and what businesses think their customers want.  

External factors

Six in 10 consumers (61%) said that their priorities keep changing because of external pressures and as a result, are perpetually in multiple stages of crisis management, with paradoxical behaviors emerging, including: 

The research also found that customers are prioritizing themselves but want to effect change for others. Even as up to 66% of consumers say their decision-making is driven by their own needs, some 72% of consumers feel they can personally impact the world and their communities through behaviors and buying choices. For example, a consumer will select a one-hour delivery for sustainable products.

More than half of consumers say the pandemic motivated them to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, but up to 65% say price increases have led them to select lower-cost brands on recent purchases. For example, a consumer will seek to buy ethically farmed, sustainable beef but select the cheaper option, particularly in this inflationary environment. 

Though over three-quarters (76%) of customers feel empowered to make key decisions in their life, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people wish that companies would respond faster with new offerings to meet their changing needs. For example, a consumer wants to feel like they are making their own decision on which product to buy but is also comfortable going with what’s recommended to them. 

Relevant solutions

“Instead of seeing customers as just a pair of hands that decide when to reach for the wallet, they should be viewed as ever-changing, ever-evolving individuals deeply affected by a variety of external influences,”said Rachel Barton, lead of Accenture Strategy’s business in Europe and co-author of the report. “Only by understanding these contexts will businesses have the right strategy to offer the most relevant solutions and help drive growth.”

While the report found nearly all businesses are struggling to stay relevant, it goes on to suggest that companies that embrace a life-centric approach — bridging the experiential interplay between customers’ ever-changing lives and the external forces that influence them daily — are best positioned to thrive in the future, form new connections, and create relevant brands, products, or services.   

“The Human Paradox” global research is the first in a year-long series of research reports focused on helping businesses understand “life-centricity” as their new approach to long-term sustainable growth and relevance. For more information about what it takes to be a life-centric business, click here.