The Future is Not a Linear Progression of the Past: Why Customers are the New Stakeholders


By Camille Nicita, President & CEO, Gongos, Inc. 

In light of the current economic landscape and unparalleled uncertainty over what the future holds, we are en route to experience a business revolution that has never been seen before. During this time, brands that prioritize their customers will thrive, and those that buckle and lock eyes solely on profitability and marketplace advantage will likely fall flat.

The future is not a linear progression of the past and brands that invest in deeply understanding the changes in consumer behavior as well as their mindsets, needs, and attitudes will be able to differentiate and create lasting lifetime value. But how are those mindsets and needs changing?

According to our own research, 56% of consumers are feeling anxious, 46% are feeling fearful, and 15% are feeling hopeless.  And amid this, brands such as Nike and New Balance are offering to make protective gear, Johnson and Johnson is working on a vaccine, and the Big 3 auto companies are offering deferred payments. But besides marketing, pricing options and media messages, what can brands do to stay closer to consumers?

Instead of defining customer lifetime value (CLV) as a measure of value a company can extract from any given consumer over his or her lifetime, companies must find ways to deliver the greatest amount of value to customers over his or her lifetime. This is a fundamental shift in how we view customer centricity, and one we think will enable companies to thrive in any climate.

But this is not any climate.

The Future is Now

When it comes to buying habits, we will undoubtedly see large-scale shifts in behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, and usage, as COVID-19 isn’t a simple blip on our world’s radar. We are entering a new norm in which people and businesses will need to seek renewed understanding, adapt, and change to new market dynamics in order to succeed. Below are a few key areas companies should consider as they adjust strategies for future success: 

And, customers are ready and willing to provide feedback now more than ever. In fact, since early March, we have seen 20-percent higher participation rates, as many who are at home and feeling less connected are craving ways to be heard. From an internal survey of over 600 online community participants, we found when it comes to customer appetites for providing feedback to brands and companies for navigating this newfound reality, surveys are the preferred modality of input (85 percent), followed by online focus groups (56 percent) and online discussion boards (55 percent). Organizations have a huge opportunity to make a positive difference in consumers’ lives as businesses often have more latitude to affect change than more traditional institutions.

The Takeaway:

In this period of social distancing and physical isolation, people are looking for ways to connect, which gives brands a unique opportunity to be that connector. Brands focused on enlisting customers as core stakeholders, going beyond selling products and services and truly forming a reciprocal human connection, will win. The impressions made now, amid these uncertain times, will have a lasting impact and could be the foundation to create value over the lifetime of your customers.

As published in Forbes.