The Uncompromising customer … 4 paradoxes of today’s “Age of I” explored in Davos this year

January 8, 2017

The theme of the 2017 World Economic Forum for the world’s leaders of governments and businesses is “Responsive and Responsible Leadership.” Creating a customer-first (or for government’s citizen-first) mindset was argued by many as the fundamental starting point to being more responsive, as well as responsible.

At the event, a new trend report, The Uncompromising Customer was launched by Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)to spark new thinking driven by changing attitudes and behaviours … and in particular to explore “the Paradoxes of the Age of I” as the report describes it. The study highlights the uncompromising nature of today’s customer, raising the bar as brands strive to deliver excellent experiences that satisfy often-contradictory needs.

The study identifies four paradoxes driving customer decisions, based on the fact that customers do not want “either/or” solutions but want the best of both worlds:

  • The paradox of separate but connected: Seeking a constant belonging with people, brands and places, while also seeking individuality and the desire to communicate uniqueness of self.
  • The paradox of abundant rarity: A desire for luxury to be both scarce and available, whiteout compromising the specialness of luxury concepts when they become more common.
  • The Paradox of a better me and a better we: Seeking personal self-improvement, while seeking public, civic or global improvement – such as luxury and sustainability.
  • Do it myself and do it for me, in my way: A desire to be in control while not being the controller Global brands must address these paradoxes through being locally relevant and personally differentiating.”

“Technology has changed the way we behave in our daily lives,” said IHG CEO Richard Solomons. “This has had a direct, and fundamental, impact on business. Global brands need to address the complex, sometimes opposing needs of today’s customers in order to fulfill their expectations.”

IHG Rewards Club has 100 million members and is the largest hotel loyalty program in the industry. From its members and data-analysis, IHG’s report identities six best practices to better meet customers’ increasingly complex needs:

  • Aim for integration rather than balance.
  • Use needs-driven occasion-based segmentation for superior business management.
  • Communicate with conversation.
  • Manage the brand’s multi-dimensionality.
  • Develop ambidextrous brand-business teams.
  • Address the paradox of brand control.

This year’s IHG Trends Report marks the fifth in a series, sharing insights into the changing world for customers and those who serve them and providing best practices to help make brands fit for the future. The insights it contains are based on a series of related studies spanning a five-year period and involving nearly 40,000 interviews with travellers across the globe.

Building on futurist Tim Jones’ FutureAgenda research base, the series has examined developments including the transition from brand experiences to brand relationships in the hospitality sector; delivering global, local and personalised brand experiences; the growing importance for companies to build both brand and organizational trust; and how to make membership meaningful at a time when loyalty is becoming ever more important to many industries.

Having recently stayed in IHG’s recently launched Indigo boutique hotel concept, then I can see first hand how the group is implementing its own insights, hotels for “the Age of I”.

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