Consumers consume. What they consume and when they consume is their choice, but that choice is becoming more and more managed, predicted, and influenced as our technology and understanding of shopping behavior grows more sophisticated. Brands continue to try to influence this choice with the expected advertising and marketing tactics, in many of the same ways they’ve always done over the years. Now, however, more models and data tools are set to decipher the choice of the when and the what far ahead of time, and these models are becoming more accurate and complex than ever before. Analysis of past consumption patterns are very helpful in this kind of predictive selling. This technology has existed for a long time now, and brands and retailers have become skilled at selling and suggesting this way.

But there is a shift underway. I would call this common, current form of predictive and suggestive selling a product-centric approach. It looks at past consumption and past behavior, then provides new products or services recommendations at the right times to drive conversion. The interesting shift is that some brands are approaching predictive selling with a strong consumer-centric focus. What does this mean? The shift is about promising more value and added benefits to the consumer and asking consumers to elect or commit to a longer-term engagement. What were once simply one-time product transactions are becoming continual transactional relationships that are centered on a new consumer experience. This shifting model “predicts” behavior and drives growth and loyalty to the brand. In 2018, I see this shift becoming a significant strategy for building brand value.

These headlines from 2017 give us a glimpse of this trend:

Let’s focus on two main insights that support the growth of this trend:

Consumers Might Love Convenience Above All Else
To support this point, here’s Aaron J. Spurlock who put it best in his Amazon review about ordering pizza with the Amazon Echo back in 2016:

“Magic. The future is now.
“Absolutely fantastic. I don’t always order the same thing every time, but there is a certain order I consider my ‘favorite.’ I have that set as my Easy Order. When I’m home and the wife isn’t, I just shout to the void, ‘Alexa, tell Dominos to place my Easy Order.’ Then, like magic, pizza arrives at my doorstep about 20–30min later. If, for some reason, pizza has not arrived within 20min or so… I once again shout into the void, ‘Alexa, ask Dominos where my pizza is.’ Then the void answers back, ‘It’s out for delivery.’ Magic. Seriously, the future is now.”

Consumers Have the Need to Belong
Georg Ritcher, founder and CEO of OceanX, explains in a very interesting way some psychological factors that trigger the desire to belong and subscribe:

“From the consumer side: there are many psychological factors: many of them supported by social media which seem unlikely to go away. These are, among others: the need to belong, the need to be known, the excitement of anticipation when receiving a package, the warm feeling of getting a surprise, being proud of getting exclusive product, the inspiration provided from curation, the effective way to discover new products and sample them, the guiding way of portioning, the rewards of complying to product use through the cadence of a subscription and not to forget the value of the products received as well as the convenience of replenishment.“

Consumers have always wanted to be part of a pack. In the world of pickup trucks, you can be a Ford, Ram, or Chevy guy.

These two insights inspire building ecosystems where consumers can become part of the group with only a minor commitment in many cases in exchange for a superior customer experience. Simply select a brand under a subscription model, and get more value and benefits that matter most.

Speaking of these new models, Facebook reveals, “Today, people can choose once, then never again.” This is the consumer-centric model that is the future of predictive selling. Consumers elect to be part of a brand’s experience in a complete ecosystem. When executed well, consumers can get more value from this relationship, and brands begin to understand how to better serve their current and future customers. In this model, the predictive consumerism is driven by a choice of experience and brand relationship.

There are certain products and brands that lend themselves better to this more experiential and subscription-based model. Take diapers, for instance; Ad Age wrote: “Pampers is already the top selling CPG brand in e-commerce, according to 1010data, Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Huggies closed some of the gap last year, growing 80% in part due to participation in (Amazon) Dash.” This consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand example is well-known among marketers and consumers, but how might this trend be applicable to other kinds of products and other categories? More business verticals are leveraging this trend to rethink their relationship models with their customers and are increasing their ability to drive predictive sales.

We are starting to see this trend grow more rapidly in travel, entertainment, and transportation verticals. In these verticals, there is great potential in designing an ecosystem where consumers choose their future consumption patterns and preferences in ways that specifically fit their needs and lifestyles. Take air travel, for example, and what companies like JetSmarter and Surf Air are doing in what many believe is a broken system, providing an alternative experience that is consumer-centric and membership-driven.

Surf Air

JetSmarter

Today, creating this kind of relationship ecosystem is one of the more valuable ways that individual product brands can establish a connection with customers. Through this approach, a brand will have a much more predictable view of the consumption habits and forecast, and the brand will be on a path to truly “know” its customers. As it stands today, most of the relationships are built between the big retailers that own the largest digital and physical platforms where the interactions occur. More brands in 2018 will begin to explore this new approach in an effort to establish a deeper relationship and influence consumer behavior in more meaningful ways.

It begins with an invitation. Brands are asking consumers to subscribe or make a longer commitment in exchange for more value, quality, and unmatched experiences. Let’s take a look at some brands in the automotive world leading in this model.

Volvo focuses on access, service, and the reimagination of car ownership.

Source: YouTube Volvo Cars

Cadillac focuses more on versatility and lifestyle matching.

Source: YouTube Cadillac

Porsche Passport is taking more of a test-to-market approach in
the Atlanta, Georgia, area and also focuses on versatility.

Source: Porschepassport.com

Making It Work for Your Brand

Using consumer’s brand purchase intent and brand preference, along with setting the right environment for them to commit, results in making sales easier to predict for brands.

  • Are you using your marketing and digital technologies to set the stage for more committed experiences? Assess your platforms and determine what it takes to evolve your communication tactics and service offerings to invite a new kind of relationship. After all, asking someone to be part of the club or be part of a longer-term commitment is much different than just encouraging the sale of a single product at one point in time.
  • Look at your products and services, and determine how these can evolve to serve consumers who are interested in deeper commitments. Can you build a brand platform that promises a range of products to explore, a more personal and flexible way to consume several different products or services over time, and a way to reward these customers with a sense of belonging and access to better privileges?
  • Consider, in your consumer-first mindset, how your brand can complement the experience with other brands that you can bring to the experience. For instance, on travel, you could have air, ground, and lodging under one experience.

It is true that a consumer’s behavior can be unpredictable. But it is also true that when given the right products and the right way to buy and engage with a brand, a consumer’s behavior can become much more predictable. A consumer-centric approach to predictive selling means that we design larger experiences, greater value, and give consumers a valuable sense of belonging so that they connect more deeply with our brands and more predictably purchase. In 2018, we will see the most innovative brands evolving to offer these experiences and encouraging customers to change the relationship and become more active members of their brands. Customers will seek out these services and leave behind brands that don’t transform to offer more value long term and not just simple ways to execute repeat purchases.

Originally published at richards.com on November 20, 2017.

Advertising guy fascinated with digital communication strategies. My struggle is to unite two worlds that will make a better one.