Understand consumers’ needs to truly engage them
There are several ages that experts say we are currently in. The Digital Age. The Big Data Age. The Smart Age. The Age of the Consumer. While these are all entirely accurate descriptors of our world, they all contribute to one, arching theme: we live in the New Age of Innovation, in which every company should embrace continuous change to keep pace with the ever-evolving nature of consumers across the world. Companies in this age must be informed, agile and adaptive — three vital pillars that support successful innovation in a world where the only constant is constant change.
Global digitisation means our world has never changed as quickly as it is currently doing. For decades, the same old tried and true methods of keeping up with or staying ahead of consumer trends were applicable across multiple industries and products. There may have been the need for minor changes to adjust strategies to cater to each generation’s needs, but with access to information literally at today’s consumers’ fingertips, there is a need to seriously rethink yesterday’s approach to innovation. Innovation itself requires an innovative makeover.
With the pace at which the needs and wants of consumers evolves, there is an urgent requirement for companies to keep in constant touch with their target audience. This is the “informed” pillar, which necessitates updated research methodologies that take full advantage of the numerous touch points available to consumers. Big data is an undisputed buzzword at present and for good reason; companies have realised the importance of gathering as much data as they can about their consumers. From their product-buying and usage habits to their preferred ways of shopping, even details of their personal, professional and financial lives, any and all data can be incorporated into an informed innovation process. By being aware of what consumers want and need, companies can devise products that offer strong solutions to everyday issues.
The second pillar in the New Age of Innovation is agility. There is no room for rigidity in a market that evolves at a rapid pace; flexibility and fluidity are the only ways forward, and companies that do not realise, or that realise but do not adopt, this approach will be unlikely to succeed. Any successful company will be able to adjust its processes, from research and product ideation through to product development, pricing, marketing and so on, to appeal to consumers — and they should be able to continue to adjust, as frequently as is necessary to stay abreast of consumer trends.
This is where being continuously in touch with the market and consumers is absolutely paramount: agility is based on a deeper understanding, which can drive informed, intelligent decisions. When it comes to flexible innovation, consumer centricity is absolutely vital; without placing the consumer at the centre of all processes throughout the product’s life cycle there is the risk of a product being unviable in the marketplace.
As the third essential pillar, the ability to be adaptive is crucial. Near enough day by day there are new technologies introduced that change the way in which we interact with each other, products and the rest of the world around us. This rapid-fire evolution demands an adaptive approach if companies, brands or products are to survive, as every new development has the potential to significantly affect consumer needs and wants. Disruption of this magnitude is frequent enough that it should not only be anticipated but expected by any consumer-focused company, which can then successfully alter its strategies to accommodate the shift brought on by such market disturbances.
There is a common thread throughout each of the three pillars discussed above: consumer centricity. When it comes to innovation, there is no substitute for taking the time to understand the consumer, to build a connection with them through constant engagement. This will naturally inspire all company processes, particularly those that are product-based, to be built around consumer needs. This is what we do at Procter and Gamble, where the mantra “Consumer is Boss” drives all that we do. It’s a success strategy that can, and should, be applied by all.
Yassin Al Attas is the communications director for the Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan at Procter and Gamble
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Published: May 28, 2014 04:00 AM