How to survive the future? Adapt or die
Said serial entrepreneur, educator and technology futurist Dr. Howard A. Tullman this week at the EuroFinance International Treasury Management conference in Geneva.
Every industry will need to dramatically change the ways in which they deliver their products and services if they expect to remain competitive in the future. Financial institutions, in particular, need to understand and appreciate that they are being faced with new types of competitors emerging and entering from many adjacent markets and industries. Amazon and Starbucks are already “banks” in many respects and not merely merchants.
Loyalty, locked-in customers, substantial barriers to entry, and significant switching costs are all relics of the past which no longer afford traditional businesses which are unwilling or unable to rapidly adapt their business models and respond to shifting markets and customer demands any meaningful protection from new entrants and disruptive technologies. No one owns the customer any longer; you have an opportunity to own the moment and to create a compelling experience and you need to deliver on your promises each and every time. Customer expectations are perpetually progressive – it’s a “what have you done for me lately world?”. Yesterday’s miracles are today’s “so whats”.
Everything now is about speed, ready and ubiquitous access, and consumer convenience. Eliminating transaction friction, improving availability – “whenever and wherever the customers may be” – and providing a seamless experience from start to finish is the name of the game in a world where time is our scarcest resource and where you aren’t merely competing with your peers – you’re competing with whatever was the last and best experience your customers have recently had - and you need to measure up or they will quickly move on.
Attention is the newest currency and competing to reach and capture consumers’ fleeting attention is an everyday, all day process which is constantly growing more difficult because of the volume of noise, clutter and other media which makes it harder and harder (as well as more costly) to properly and consistently reach and engage your current customers and your prospects as well. The key to improving margins is to initially focus on deepening the existing connections you have with your current customers rather than engaging in expensive and largely unproductive conquest marketing in vain attempts to acquire new clients.
In addition, the rate of change (driven both by data availability and technology advances) continues to accelerate and the need to continually up your game is critical because in the “right now” economy, no one wants to wait for anything. You need to be there when the buyer is ready to buy or someone else will quickly take your place. Patience is also a thing of the past. Consumers want their needs and desires met immediately and they want things their way. Mass customization – being all things to each person – is now not only feasible, but also doable in a cost-effective manner due to technology and it’s increasingly becoming a competitive necessity.
The best businesses today aren’t looking backwards at where they’ve been; they’re focused on the future and on the need to use the new data-driven tools which permit them to anticipate and exceed the needs of their customers in order to keep raising the bar. Getting ahead of the clients requirements and helping to guide and manage their expectations is crucial to customer retention and differentiation – especially when so many new automated and low cost alternatives are being presented to customers who frankly may not really be able to tell the difference between offerings.
The bottom line for every CEO and CFO to take into the boardroom: make it fast, make it easy, and show me why it makes dollars and sense for me, or I’ll find someone else who can.