This year, people are seeking ways to adapt in an uncertain world.
Emerging technologies are giving control to the people, with never-before-seen outcomes for businesses and individuals.
Artificial intelligence (AI) lets people express their natural creativity, web3 offers the chance to help shape the brands they love, and tokenization may soon hand them full control over their personal data.
These seemingly small shifts in control will alter power dynamics on a systemic level. Business leaders must wonder: How much of themselves will customers be willing to give to brands? How will brands build trust and leverage new technologies for growth?
The world is lurching from one global catastrophe to the next. But, as they have for millennia, people are adapting to instability by switching between four responses: fight, flight, focus and freeze.
Fight:people will increasingly raise their voices against injustices
Flight: people will look for alternative options
Focus: people will cope by focusing on what they can control
Freeze:people will switch off entirely
Consider the current pressure on people’s finances: Families who are seeking to make ends meet are cutting back on non-essentials like media and subscription services, resulting in a phenomenon dubbed the “Great Cancellation”. People are cancelling gym memberships, pausing contributions to pensions, and abandoning health and life insurance policies. The cost-of-living crisis may also exacerbate loneliness as one of the first expenses people drop will be their social activities.
As people internalize instability as a norm, how they adapt will affect what they buy, and how they view brands and their employers—and companies need to be ready.
TREND 2: I’M A BELIEVER
Building a community will be essential to growing a customer base.
In an unstable world, people seek out places where they feel they belong. As a result, next-gen brands will be built as communities first, reshaping loyalty and brand participation.
A significant majority of participants have tried new hobbies or joined new communities in the past six to nine months.
— Source: Accenture Research online focus group
Three threads are converging to enable this model.
Communities of belonging: on platforms like Reddit, Discord and Twitch
Token-gating: exclusive access reserved for “token holders only"
Collectibles: digital arts, autographs, trading cards and more
For instance, crypto sports community WAGMI United purchased Crawley Town FC, an English league two football club, with the mission to advance it to the Premier League. They released an NFT-gated community for the club, and owners of the NFTs gained voting rights in addition to their asset.
Crucially, technology isn’t the most interesting thing about the model for customers—companies should focus on benefits.
Already thinking this way is Starbucks. Their tokenized loyalty program Odyssey is gently introducing web3 to a mass-market customer by focusing on communicating rewards and brand engagement rather than the technology. Starbucks CMO Brady Brewer commented, “It happens to be built on blockchain and web3 technologies, but the customer may not even know that what they’re doing is interacting with blockchain technology. It’s just the enabler.”
TREND 3: AS IT WAS
Return to office hasn’t been a success for many—it still needs work.
Everyone’s felt the loss of intangible office benefits, like chance encounters and consistent, close guidance of junior talent. Now, the consequences of the loss are becoming clear. Without in-person engagement companies stand to lose:
Workplace design hasn’t yet caught up to new workforce expectations. Instead of continuing to optimize what exists, companies should completely reimagine work, addressing with intention both tangibles and intangibles.
But there’s a tension brewing between those who enjoy the autonomy of remote work and those who crave the rewards of being together. Leaders will need to go back to the drawing board and create logical, mutually beneficial plans.
TREND 4: OK, CREATIVITY
AI is becoming people’s co-pilot for creativity.
Whereas artificial intelligence largely has been used by enterprises and brands as a service to people or on people, neural networks have been made widely available to create language, images and music—putting AI squarely in people’s hands as a tool for creativity. Developments are hitting the market at an astonishing speed.
For language, neural networks are being used to generate sentence structures in text based on a language model with 175 billion parameters. It’s sophisticated enough to generate copy for blogs, emails and articles (albeit copy that could then benefit from some human editing).
For sound, Jukebox is a neural net that generates music—including rudimentary singing—as raw audio in a variety of genres and artistic styles.
For images, Midjourney is a closed-source, deep learning model for creating images from text and even from other images.
Companies need to think about how they will stand out in the sea of AI-generated content. How can you use AI to enhance the speed and originality of innovation?
Digital wallets could end the digital identity crisis.
The use (and misuse) of personal data is long overdue for a transformation. Transparency and trust in online brand experiences are quickly diminishing in tandem.
Eighty-six percent of people feel growing concerns about their data privacy.
— Source: software marketplace G2
But control could soon switch hands. Digital wallets containing tokens (representing payment methods, ID, loyalty cards and more) will allow people to decide how much data they share with—and even sell to—organizations. That’s great news for brands: the data that people do hand over will be even more valuable than the third-party information that is no longer collected in our “cookieless” world.
Building customer confidence in digital wallets could be a challenge. Although it’s early days, companies can accelerate adoption by:
Showing people that data control is worth the time investment
Making tokens easy to obtain and use in day-to-day transactions
Helpingpeople understand a wallet’s function beyond payments
Understanding the permission levels people can grant to businesses
GET THE FULL PICTURE
The coming shifts in control and power will lead to a new picture of progress.
New power dynamics will present incredible opportunities for businesses to develop relationships with customers like never before. Loyalty and participation are at a tipping point, and creativity is on the edge of unlimited possibility.
Our annual trends report is a labor of love and we would like to thank everyone who contributed from Accenture Song’s global network of designers, creatives, technologists, sociologists, and anthropologists.