"The world is changing faster than the human mind can comprehend."
Kate Ancketill, the CEO of GDR Creative Intelligence, discusses how companies need to guide their customers through an increasingly complex world.
In a world where the digital, physical and biological realms are fusing and transforming the ways we live, work, travel, create and consume, many people will find it increasingly challenging to manage the complexity this creates.
Who, even a year ago, would have believed that an augmented reality game - Pokémon Go - would have 100 million daily users within three weeks of its launch, when it took Twitter five years to reach that number. Consider how many more people now ‘get’ augmented reality, opening the door to the mass adoption of ‘layering’ all sorts of digital content onto real-world topography.
Augmented reality: not so uncommon these days
As city-states grow, traditional models of families and communities change, with loosened support networks and an end to intergenerational occupations. Even those with jobs face uncertainty as careers become more fluid. Younger people are experiencing unprecedented levels of personal debt and lack of affordable accommodation, reducing their ability to hit the milestones expected of their parents in terms of car and home ownership.
It’s not surprising there’s a massive shift among the young from owning things, which the young can’t afford anyway, towards experiences, fractional ownership (Uber, AirBnB, RenttheRunway, ByeBuy) and the sharing economy. This is one of the reasons analysts give for the reduction of store numbers for Macys in the US.
Innovative startups are filling the voids that the old economy has failed to meet. Co-working spaces like WeWork are moving into WeLive fully furnished apartments that include cleaning, superfast broadband, laundry, games rooms and a ready-made community of go-getters. The smart money is betting on self-driving cars eliminating the need for individual car ownership within 20 years, at least in the mature economies. Asset-sharing services like Zipcar are on the up.
A shift towards sharing
We’ve not even touched on the likely economic restructuring to come as a result of cognitive computing undercutting and, ultimately, replacing of human workers.
In 2016, the world’s first ‘cognitive knowledge worker’ - IP Soft’s Amelia - was employed by Enfield Council in the UK to answer local residents’ queries. She can respond to natural language questions in 24 languages, 24 hours a day, and deal with multiple people at the same time. Admin, call centre and white collar knowledge-based jobs are likely to be among the first wave of those affected.
So what can businesses do to ensure they’re bending, and not breaking, in these winds of change?
Trusted brands are becoming the only stable and familiar things in a world where nothing seems permanent. If companies understand the realities their customers face they can offer ‘life support’ services.
Indeed, many are already adapting: P&G’s Tide Spin is an app-based laundry pick-up, wash and delivery service at rock bottom prices, cleverly mutating a product into a support service. French electronics retailer Darty sells an affordable subscription where pressing a button in your house triggers a call from a geek who’ll help you set up any home-based tech. There is even NeedaMom, an on-demand service for women to mother and take care of millennials whose own mums are sadly absent.
John Lewis offers master-classes, jointly with AirBnB, coaching room renters on how to meet the needs of the global nomad.
The Internet of Things: an expanding network of connected devices
This growing complexity is not without concerns too.
There are real issues of security around the growth of 'Internet of Things' enabled devices. The excitement over the yet-to-launch Jibo, ‘the world’s first social robot for the home’, has been tempered recently by worries that a desktop robot acting as a companion for children could have its camera hacked through the internet. Brands are, or should make sure they are, in a position to help consumers navigate these choppy waters - to be their geek squad and their digital life support system.
Looking to the near future, we’ll live in a world of on-demand services, flexible community networks, and the proliferation of intelligent technologies to fulfil every need. Forward-thinking companies should position themselves as trusted support-providers in this brave new world.
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