The customer is king. This cliché rings true in today’s marketplace where consumers demand convenience, the right price and customized experiences to set the pace of their own buying journeys. Increasing consumer control over buying isn’t limited to retail; across industries, from health care to banking, consumers demand to be heard and catered to, or they go elsewhere, fast.
How are middle market businesses embracing this shift and making it work?
In the business-to-consumer (B2C) marketplace, consumers require affordable products on their own terms. Businesses able to meet consumers’ tailored demands will develop loyalty and lasting customer relationships. Here’s how some industries are making it work.
Effective brands in the consumer products industry understand their customers and build a community that engages them. Relationship building is particularly important as younger generations, who value brand authenticity, begin to dominate the market. For instance, Generation Z (those born in the mid-1990s and after) already represents an estimated $143 billion in annual buying power, according to Forbes. This cohort
frequently connects with companies that promote social responsibility, are transparent in their operating procedures, and provide open communication and information networks. Establishing meaningful connections facilitated by technology resonates with this digital-savvy group.
Millennials, baby boomers and other consumers also value streamlined convenience, information, easy comparison shopping and quick transactions once they’re ready to buy. Successful consumer products businesses are providing services such as mobile or online ordering with in-store pick-up, easy returns, and improved loyalty programs, as well as showroom and online experiences featuring artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Many companies are leveraging Big Data to mine targeted demographic information, maximize their omnichannel effectiveness, expand their reach with customers and to better understand them. Companies are also reaching out to bloggers in the retail and consumer products space, betting product endorsements from these social influencers can help establish brand credibility.
According to McKinsey & Company, health care consumers directly control $330 billion annually in out-of-pocket health care expenses and their choices might affect 61 percent of all health care spending. The advent of consumerism in the health care industry is growing as patients push for more affordable care, transparent pricing and optimized services. These consumers are better informed, more cost conscious, and seek convenience through telemedicine, medical clinics or other alternatives.
In response, smart health care providers are emphasizing interoperability throughout their specific systems, linking multiple computer systems across the enterprise to exchange data and make use of collected information. This allows patients’ electronic health records to be entered once but utilized endless times, providing accurate care, quicker service and efficient billing. In addition, some health care providers are also leveraging population health management studies and solutions to help prevent or predict health concerns in the community to improve overall health and resource needs. The end result: appropriate care is provided faster and more efficiently to the consumer. Quality of care rather than quantity of care is the emphasis.
According to the American Bankers Association, millennials are the fastest-growing customer base and they’re changing the way banks do business. This generation requires digital
solutions to manage their money. They are three times more likely to open a new account with their phone versus doing so in person; 61 percent say mobility has made tracking and spending their money easier.
Banks that offer digital services like mobile payments, budgeting tools and wealth management are improving their engagement with millennial consumers and other generations; however, many traditional financial institutions are experiencing competition from alternatives from financial technologies (fintech) such as mobile transaction apps like PayPal and Venmo. According to FICO, while fintech use is still somewhat low across the board, younger generations (those aged 18 to 34) are twice as likely to use mobile payments than those over 35, and more likely to start using mobile payments in the next 12 months. As fintech providers broaden their services and reach, banks must respond with possible fintech collaborations and equally compelling digital services and resources for consumers.
Business decision-makers are consumers, too
Similar trends hold true for enterprise customers. The personal buying preferences of business decision-makers frequently affect their professional buying habits. They too want convenient, efficient, cost-conscious, custom services that can meet their businesses’ needs. And companies who listen and address those demands with innovative solutions are carving out their spot in the marketplace.
In the real estate industry, to answer the need for affordable, innovative workspaces for businesses, WeWork provides companies throughout the world a shared work environment offering modern and attractive office and conference spaces, spacious common areas, onsite staff and more, all at a fee lower than traditional office leasing. Likewise, commercial real estate has responded to the transforming nature of retail space, re-envisioning former mall stores into revitalized locations for community college classrooms, event spaces, medical clinics, spas, fitness centers and more; catering to the updated needs of the surrounding community; and providing new business opportunities for leasers and owners.
Innovative solutions also come from business-to-business (B2B) organizations that are harnessing technology and data. For example, robotic process automation (RPA) is a growing
offering from providers to businesses, automating redundant or time-consuming tasks. In recent years, RPA solutions have become much more affordable, enabling companies to automate tasks, streamline information, create a single view of multiple data sources and transform that data into a more valuable resource. From manufacturing to restaurants, automation technology continues to be an important tool for B2Bs to work together.