“We’ve always done it that way.”
“That’s not the way we do things around here.”
“That’s the way we do things around here.”
“That won’t work over here.”
“We tried that years ago … it didn’t work…”
“If it ain’t broke, why fix it”
“It’s not my problem.”
“They’re too small, they won’t hurt us.”
These statements all point to one thing: complacency. Blockbuster, Nokia, Kodak, and RIM (maker of the once iconic BlackBerry) are only a few examples of larger companies that have fallen victim to their own complacency. Not attentive enough to read the signs of the times, unable to innovate, not clear on how to change and unwilling to take risks.
Another statement that reads complacency is “Our customers know we are the leader in XYZ and provide the best product and service.”
But, do they really? And, are you really?
The truth is that customers won’t remember your past glories for long. Although people are creatures of habit, in a fast-paced world where the only constant is change, we’re always on the lookout for better options – knowingly and unknowingly.
Faced with the burden of increasing time pressure, customers want companies to innovate and push products and services to a new frontier to make their lives easier in significant ways.
Bill Gates calls it the “What have you done for me lately?” syndrome. It’s the customer’s desire for innovation, new colors and screen sizes, better pricing, faster service…
If you play it safe, customers may outgrow you and move on to better options. And they will find them.
Complacency and the reluctance to innovate are built on the false hope that customers won’t change.
In today’s economy, markets and customers are changing so fast, that if you don’t innovate, you’ll risk falling behind just as quickly.
Let’s take a closer look at Kodak. Hugely successful with cameras and film. Their problem, however, was that they failed to respond to changing market and customer demands for digital cameras and easy photo sharing. They were too stuck in their old ways to understand that customer expectations and behaviors have shifted. Eventually, pushing them out of the market.
The lesson learned here is: Keep the customer at the center. Spend time getting to know them and think about how you can solve their problems and make their lives easier or better as the world around them is changing.
These are simple questions that you should keep asking yourself to reevaluate your business and what it does for your customers. If you’re honest with your answers, you’ll stop yourself from becoming complacent, always finding ways to strengthen your value proposition.
Recent history has given us many examples that show how quickly customers change their habits and preferences in a digital world and how human-centric innovation is the only gateway to sustained loyalty and business growth.
- People no longer want to leave their homes to rent a movie? ⇨ Netflix gained 92 million customers in the last five years.
- People no longer want to deal with the inflexibility and lack of transparency when hailing a cab? ⇨ Uber reported $7.5 billion in revenue last year and its contender, Lyft passed $1 billion in revenue in 2017.
- People no longer want to spend hours researching a purchase? ⇨ AI Digital sales assistants boost conversion and 88% of consumers say it is beneficial for stores to have them in product categories such as electronics, white goods, telecommunications, automotive or financial services.
- People no longer want to stay in clinical hotel rooms and instead, want to feel more homely away from home? ⇨ Airbnb will be 10 years old in August of 2018 and in its brief life has grown to be valued at $30 billion.
There are other good examples of companies that seize opportunities and define markets by not allowing themselves to become complacent.
Amazon constantly innovates its product and service offerings along with its marketing and communication around current and anticipated, future customer needs. What prevents them from becoming complacent is human-centricity. Not only is it now a full-stack online retailer, but it also has one of the most successful loyalty programs. Despite charging a fee, Amazon Prime has amassed a whopping 100 million members.
Today, Amazon produces TV shows, offers cloud hosting through Amazon Web Services, and its own virtual assistant, Alexa, is giving stiff competition to the likes of Google Home. It has even blurred the line between online and offline with its pop-up stores and the no-line, no-checkout Amazon Go shops.
Amazon also has one of the best customer services with easy returns, an engaged community and an overall hassle-free shopping experience that includes digital sales assistants to help online customers easily find and choose just the right product, from laptops to strollers and even dog food.
When PepsiCo realized that their young consumers were becoming increasingly health conscious and developed a cautious attitude towards aerated beverages, they made a smart shift to healthier options by acquiring Tropicana, Gatorade, and Quaker Foods, establishing themselves as a strong proponent of healthy options. This move made them a more popular brand than Coca-Cola whose Diet Coke simply couldn’t do the trick.
Another company that has revolutionized retail in the beauty market is Sephora.
In a fickle industry like beauty, where product choices are plentiful, and customers try out new brands all the time, Sephora has managed to create a loyal customer base, thanks to an immaculate combination of technology and human-centric engagement strategies.
They realized that the biggest dilemma consumers face is finding the perfect beauty product out of a hundred options. They used a combination of digital in-store techs like the Color IQ Kiosk and Fragrance IQ Kiosk to support their customers.
On the online front, Sephora’s official website has an incredibly nuanced digital advice offering that helps users choose the best product. They have gift guides and “The Beauty Board” where customers can share their pictures with makeup styles and product tips.
One company that really hit it out of the park is Dollar Shave Club. In an industry that was focused entirely on improving the quality of razors and blades, Dollar Shave Club realized they couldn’t compete with giants like Gillette in terms of quality, price or shelf space. So they decided to revolutionize the business model itself by making it all about the customer.
They used an anti-marketing marketing approach with a funny advertisement and smart choice helpers that hit home with the customers.
The best retention tactic: Give people what they want (not what you want them to have)
Dollar Shave Club utilized the subscription model to deliver their product straight to the customers’ homes, month after month. “The customer experience was broken,” says Michael Dublin, CEO of Dollar Shave Club, and boy, did he fix it.
Reason enough for Unilever to pay $1 billion in cash for the Venice, CA.-based company, marking one of the biggest e-commerce deals in recent years.
A retailer that consistently innovated through the years is the home improvement chain Lowe’s. The brand was quick to adopt the revolutionary AR and VR platforms to enchant customers. The idea of being able to not just imagine but actually see how a product would look in their homes really got the customers coming back.
From these examples, we can see that innovation with a focus on the human is key to establishing brand loyalty.
Identifying customer problems and coming up with new solutions and services that make the customer experience easier and better is the smartest way to reinforce loyalty. Responding to changing preferences and adapting to raised standards is a basic need. Companies must evolve. They must identify even the smallest pain points and find a way to do things better.
Stay sharp. Innovate, evolve and show customers what you have done for them lately.