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2019, Bring the Chaos



INFLUENCER: Iris' David Caygill reveals some of the big ideas that are catching his eye

2019, Bring the Chaos

In 2019 uncertainty is the new normal. There’s no point waiting for things to settle down before we start making decisions about things, we just need to crack on. The meltdown of the UK government, Brexit, actual warp drives, 100 year old brands who were a mainstay of the high street dropping like flies. You can’t rely on anything anymore.

When the only constant is change, what do we do? It is time to step up to the challenge and get stuck in. It is time to become experts at standing in the shifting sands, riding the waves and thriving where others sink.  

One of the best ways to enhance your chances of benefiting from a change of wind, rather than being buffeted, is to have a good latent awareness of emerging trends in both technology, and consumer behaviours – you’re then able to constantly cross reference the new stuff happening in the world with your (or your organisation’s) agenda. Here are some of the big ideas that are catching my eye:

Knowing what to automate

I’m working on a lot of briefs which centre around automation at the moment. While a year or two ago these would have been very much about maximising productivity and minimising staff requirements, things have moved on. The decisions brands are wrangling with are much more customer centric. We are asking ‘what does it really make sense to do with the machine' vs ‘what should our staff be doing?’ Working out which moments need compassionate, emotionally intelligent, flexible humans and which need anonymous, efficient, standardised interactions is the trick. Creating empathy maps and running ethnographic studies to really understand the need state of the user/customer is the key here. Sometimes a kiosk or bot is perfect to get the job done, sometimes a warm smile and some help is what you need.

Getting serious about sustainable innovation

The end of the world really is nigh. The IPCC issued stark warnings on climate change this year, we have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. These are numbers we can understand and imagine, no longer is it an intangible thing we can worry about tomorrow. The next generation will look back at us with contempt if we don’t sort this out. Business has a key role to play in building a more sustainable future. With China banning the import of 24 types of waste including plastic, paper and textiles, it is forcing governments and businesses worldwide to rethink years of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality and begin to tackle unsustainable practices. Consumers are voting with their wallet as well. A report published by Mintel in June 2018 reveals that 65% of UK adults say they are currently trying to live more ethically than they were a year ago, a figure that rises to 69% in the 16-24 age group. 62% would switch to a different brand if a brand they typically bought from was in the news for unethical purposes - even if it were more expensive - and 56% intentionally buy a product that’s fair trade, organic, local, or has not been tested on animals.

By creating new sustainable product and service propositions brands can attract new customers, grow market share and build a stronger future facing brand. Initiatives can be as simple as changing the packaging materials you use, being transparent and monitoring a supply chain. Creating a re-use or recycle model to reduce waste of your product once used.

Trust is bust

89% of consumers are worried that fake online reviews are distorting what people buy according to Feefo (a review company). We need authentic genuine information more than ever as we shift to online purchasing. We can’t go by a few images and a superlative description. In lieu of being able to touch and hold an item we need some opinions of other real humans. We already block advertising because we don’t believe it could possibly be true, soon this behaviour will apply to reviews and a new form of authentic verification will rise from the ashes. Trust will be a key battleground in 2019 - which influencers can we believe? What news outlets have what kind of bias? 

Retail rationalisation

As the country’s high street brands face continued headwinds in the face of e-commerce and tighter margins our high streets become a sprawling flashing LED mecca of vape shops, mobile phone retailers and nail bars. It is no wonder that investor owners of high street brands struggle to see the value in the traditional model. It is time brands really wake up to the reality the physical shop is not really about selling products any more. Sales per square foot is totally the wrong metric to judge success by. Retail still has a huge role to play in the brand experience. Brands still need to bring people into their world, not to buy things, but to buy ideas. Smart brands like Lululemon with their in-store yoga classes, Selfridges with their home making classes and Audi with their tech filled City showrooms know that it is about living a slice of the brand dream. Look to the east and see mass automation, cashless, people-less stores really happening and rolling out. Jack Ma’s ability to create a seamless online to offline ability in his Alibaba empire. The future is happening out east for sure.

Those were just four of things I’m looking at for 2019, you will have your own shortlist I’m sure. Rather than giving you the answers I want to give you the tools. This is really about becoming an expert in agile strategy. Rather than shaping your planning around arbitrary annual dates and then doggedly sticking to the plan the exec signed off, be more open to tweaking the course, finding a new tack which will get you closer to your destination. A strong company purpose, well understood by the whole organisation which translates into stories everyone can follow and tell, means bucket loads more than a 10 page strategy document.

And if you really want to know what will happen in 2019, 2029, or 2099 have a look at what Ray Kurzweil predicted would happen back in 1990 in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines.

David Caygill is managing director, innovation and ventures for Iris 

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Iris, Fri, 14 Dec 2018 15:24:31 GMT