I have just read a presentation by social media and digital marketing thinker, Steven Van Belleghem, on how consumers will change over the rest of this decade. He talks about three key factors that will significantly influence consumer behavior:

1. Full adoption of new technologies: by the year 2020 there will be 2.5 billion smartphones in use. The internet and digitization will be the most natural thing in the world.
2. Transparency: technology will make the world even more transparent. Consumers will be able to audit every company or brand they interact with in real time and will increasingly rely on the crowd for validation of a purchase.
3. Selectivity: technology will become even more effective at shielding consumers from commercial messages. Gaining access to the 2020 consumer will prove extremely difficult.

Van Belleghem proposes three strategies to prepare your business for this brave new world.

First you have to put your customer at the centre of everything you do. And it won’t just be influencers who matter because every customer will influence. He calls it extreme customer centricity. Any dissonance with your brand or the experience with be amplified. These have to be rooted out and remedied. You need a strategy for auditing every point of contact your customers have with your brand.

Second you have to utilise technology to enhance your customer experience by make the whole process of inter-acting with your brand more streamlined and personalised. And of course, technology has the power to drive down costs and thereby increase your value proposition. Are you collecting the data that is available to you and are you using it?

Third you have to sell without selling because technology will increasingly allow consumers to shield themselves from conventional selling messages. It’s less and less about your own product and more and more about what consumers can do with that product. What is your non-selling strategy?

And, unsurprisingly as a self-styled content guru, Van Belleghem suggests that to successfully prepare for the arrival of the 2020 customer you need to create a mix of content, both big and small stories, heavily weighted towards video which you publish on your own media channels thus bringing customers on to your own platforms. You measure every interaction your customers have with you and use that to further improve the content you are producing.