• Madani Sahari

Adapting to the new age of consumer mindsets

The first part of this series discussed the evolution and change in socio-economic norms that govern the global economy. The neo-liberal economic model which emerged as a prominent mind set for economic governance is slowly being reinvented by the same institutions that put them in prominence more than three decades ago.

This global phenomenon, seen particularly through the recent EU shake up and US presidential election, boggled the mind of political and economic analysts around the world.

While Brexit was too close to call, most of the American media could not see Trump's unconventional approach to governance ever taking mainstream, yet on the 9th of November they all woke up to a paradigm shift - the realization that our economic systems may have a new face in the future.

The signs of this change, however, didn't go unnoticed. At the World Economic Forum 2016, many experts alluded to this change. While the movement towards complete privatization and deregulation of markets gained momentum around the 1980s, the start of this decade demonstrated a shift - the economy as a whole was going through its fourth revolution, called Industry 4.0.

While discussions on Industry 4.0 focused on the rapid digitalization affecting business, it also created massive free flow of information that allowed consumers to access an unprecedented amount of information, at the tip of their fingers. They would have unlimited access to product information, global trends, good and bad reviews, and gained not just expert insight, but also moral insight of the people running the businesses that make their products.

The old saying goes, "the customer is king". Despite the advent of social media, the generation commonly known as "Generation X", are still the current true holders of purchasing power.

This generation is conservative when it comes to expressing their views online. However, they are the silent kings - the consumer generation in which their values dominate the whims and fancies of the generation they are still financially responsible for.

Rest assured that in time, a new generation will then ascend to dominate the purchasing demographic, with its own peculiarities of consumerism.

With this in mind, it is now ever more important to develop sensitivity to the dynamics of those consuming our products. We have come to that juncture in time where production efficiency should no longer be considered leaps in management, but basic foundations that allow focus on the true objective - a customer oriented workflow.

However, deeper understanding of consumer behaviour must exist at both cultural and technical form, i.e. the mind set of unidimensional consumer feedback methodology has to be challenged at its very core. The reinvention of marketing and sales must engage directly with new behaviours of the consumer, with inbound marketing taking over outbound approaches.

The new consumer can no longer be told, but must firstly be understood. They should then be satisfied through not just point-of-sales retail method, but immersive ownership experience that solidifies brand loyalty.

Consumers are not defined just the individuals that buy cars. Moving down the supply chain, vendors do not deal with individuals, but their OEM principles. However, the concept of the more-informed-than-ever customer remains the same, i.e. they are more technologically advanced and they expect vendors not to be just their part suppliers, but partners in the ever growing technological complexity the OEMs are facing. Simply put, the lines of the consumer-supplier relationship will become blurred even more because of Industry 4.0.

In the next part, we will look at specifics on how the Industry 4.0 can be leveraged to accomplish a holistic customer oriented business workflow.

"Businesses only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages"

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