This is an exciting time to be a marketer. In fact, it’s an incredible time to be a part of any business looking to connect with consumers to sell a product.

Why? Because consumers are looking at products and the path to purchase very differently.

Living services

'Living services' will be able to seamlessly learn and evolve, ever-changing to suit the needs of users, almost as if they are actually reality-based observers.

By being physically present (think wearables and connected devices in our homes and cars), living services will intuitively learn our habits, likes and dislikes, and become accustomed to individual and changing preferences.

A defining characteristic of living services is that they will be designed around individuals, rather than generic services defined by an organization for mass consumption.

They are the result of two powerful forces...

'Liquid' consumer expectations

Consumers now expect experiences with brands and companies not only to have a continuous flow, but also to morph to fit their changing needs, environments and goals.

Consumers also expect experiences to reflect excellence levels they are accustomed to from any number of other unrelated services across multiple industries. It’s no longer enough to have a superior experience within just one category or compared to direct competitors.

Marketers and business leaders have a choice: continue to watch the gap expand between consumer expectations and the customer experience, or reshape the way they design and deliver experiences, with an eye toward turning products into services.

The second force is...

The digitization of everything

You may think of this as the Internet of Things but this does not sufficiently encompass the benefits this new era will bring to our lives.

In the next five years, sensors, the cloud, connected smart devices and real-time analytics will form a new layer of connected intelligence.

This will revolutionize the ability of brands and organizations to offer customized and curated experiences and ultimately indispensable digital services to consumers. 

How living services are challenging brands

Just like the emergence of the desktop web in the 1990s and the beginning of mobile in the 2000s, living services will transform brands, consumers and society writ large.

The upcoming challenge for brands will be to design services that address and resolve economic and operational concerns, as well as emotional and physiological user experiences.

Design needs to be tailored, responsive and able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Put simply, the role of design for brands will be more important than ever. 

As living services continue to become an integral part of our lives, brands need to think of how they can continue to attract and retain consumer attention and loyalty. 

In a world where consumers are experiencing a proliferation of digital touchpoints and services, the amount of time they have to interact with each service will further decrease.

Brand owners should look to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar for guidance on how to navigate this era.

Dunbar maintained that there is a limit to the number of people we can maintain meaningful social connections with, and in societies across the world, that limit is 150. Above this number, the relationships stop being meaningful or authentic.

What this means for brands is that there likely is a Dunbar number for the maximum number of brands consumers can relate to in a meaningful way. 

Where will your brand sit with consumers?

To illustrate this point, Nielsen tracked app usage of iPhone and Android users in the US for two years and found that, while time spent on mobile apps increased by 65% over that period of time, the number of apps they engaged with remained static at approximately 25.

With this in mind, Fjord created a Dunbar number map for brands outlining four possible quadrants for consumers’ relationships with their brands: 

  • Brands that they love and engage with often (very few)
  • Brands that they love that they don’t often engage with
  • Brands that they don’t love but engage with often
  • Brands that they don’t love that they don’t often engage with (many)

Marketers need to take note of and consider strategic questions as they determine the future of their brands...

Which quadrant can my brand realistically expect to be in? Can my brand move towards the desired quadrant? And how do I deal with consumers who place my brand in more than one part of the map? 

The future...

Living services will change businesses in several ways. One is embracing and applying analytics and continuous design to create services that react in real-time to changing situations.

Another is the growing fusion of the roles of chief marketing officer and chief information officer and the emergence of new roles, such as chief experience officer. 

Ultimately, living services will challenge all businesses to reinvent their relationships with customers and deliver tailored and unique solutions they find indispensable.

For more on customer experience from our own research team, download the Customer Experience Optimization report.

Glen Hartman

Published 6 August, 2015 by Glen Hartman

Glen Hartman serves as Senior Managing Director for Digital Transformation at Accenture Interactive and is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him at @hartmanglen or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Terry Trower, Senior Writer at CHI

Unfortunately this evangelical tosh is not connected to reality. Before brands start extolling the virtues of digitalisation or people do on their behalf they need to ensure their internal depts are singing from the same hymn sheet. I've just spent the afternoon rationalising my phone and broadband services into BT. BT huge brand where the online offers can't be replicated over the phone. Why not? Where's my seamless and positive experience of the brand. Where's the reassurance the brand is a coherent entity with my interests at heart. It isn't. It just tells me it's a marketing organisation more interested in sales.

over 2 years ago

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