Table of Contents
- What Is a Customer-Centric Business Strategy?
- Why the Customer-Centric Approach Gained Popularity
- The Rise of the Life-Centric Approach
- Key Differences Between Customer-Centric vs. Life-Centric
- Is Life-Centricity the Future?
- What Happens When Companies Don’t Evolve With Consumers?
- How to Follow a More Life-Centric Strategy
- Should You Change Your Business Strategy?
A customer-centric business strategy is when customer experience is prioritized to gain loyalty and referrals. Amazon, for example, strives to be the world’s best customer-centric company—it’s part of their “Who We Are” statement. One of the company’s guiding principles is “customer obsession rather than competitor focus.” In an effort to provide the best shopping experience, the brand developed one-click shopping, personalized recommendations, and prioritized customer reviews.
But in recent years, Amazon has shifted its focus to include not only the customer experience but customer values as well. As part of its identity statement, Amazon now claims to be “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work.” With this, the company pioneered “The Climate Pledge,” a commitment made in 2019 to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. In an effort to evolve and anticipate customer needs, they’ve shifted to a “life-centric” approach that modern customers want to see from brands.
If business owners are having trouble rebounding from the pandemic and incentivizing customers during this time of financial uncertainty, tapping into customer values and highlighting your brand’s cultural mission may provide the growth you’ve been looking to achieve. In this article, learn more about the life-centric strategy, why it’s different from the customer-centric strategy, and how it can help organizations thrive.
- 64% of consumers wish that companies would respond faster to their changing needs and values.
- As consumer decision-making changes with external forces like the economy, social movements, climate change, and health concerns, companies need to adapt quickly.
- Adopting an empathetic and holistic approach to customer satisfaction may be the way to improve sales and maintain growth.
What Is a Customer-Centric Business Strategy?
A customer-centric business focuses on providing the best customer experience possible in order to drive repeat business and promote customer loyalty. This approach requires excellent customer service and relies on referrals that will lead to business growth.
Customer-centric brands create a culture that revolves around their ideal consumer and their needs. The stronger the relationships between brands and their customers are, the more the company can use customer data to nail down purchase trends.
Why the Customer-Centric Approach Gained Popularity
Research from 2017 by management consultant company Deloitte found that companies with a customer-centric strategy were 60% more profitable than those not focused on the customer. Prior to the customer-centric push, brands focused on products and making them so appealing that customers would buy them no matter what.
Unlike customer-centricity, product-centricity relies on the product selling itself due to its special features and functionality. However, over the last two decades, many companies shifted their strategies to be more customer-focused so they could:
- Increase online shopping and give customers more options.
- Use social media for customer referrals.
- Stay relevant despite a rise in product competitors.
New research shows that the growth seen by customer-centric companies five years ago has been impacted by the extensive external factors felt by consumers in recent years. Now they want to see more from brands, with an approach to business that exceeds their own personal experiences.
The Rise of the Life-Centric Approach
Research conducted by Accenture, a global professional services company, suggests businesses that follow a life-centric approach will be better positioned to meet future challenges. The survey including over 25,000 consumers across 22 countries shows that 88% of executives think their customers are changing faster than their businesses can keep up. Additionally, 64% of consumers wish that companies would respond faster to meet their changing needs.
For a global marketplace that’s mainly focused on customer- or client-centricity, it’s concerning that the two forces appear to be misaligned. The explanation is that people no longer want to be viewed simply as consumers, but as humans who see past the monetary value of a product or service.
The Life-Centric Model Accounts for Paradoxical Behavior
The life-centricity model takes into account the paradoxical behaviors of customers who want their purchases to benefit themselves while effecting positive change for others. Chief strategist at Accenture Song Baiju Shah says, “We all went through a radical reassessment of our personal values, of what matters, and how we show up, and this is what’s manifesting what we call ‘paradoxes’ in values and behavior.”
These paradoxes are driven by external factors like inflation, social movements, and public health. “They are basically turning everything we know upside down, and the list of practical and ethical considerations is getting longer,” Shah explains.
The changing needs and priorities of consumers suggest that for companies to maintain growth in the ever-changing modern world, they need to focus on a more adaptable and empathetic business strategy.
Key Differences Between Customer-Centric vs. Life-Centric
To understand the difference between the two business strategies, here’s a rundown of their basic characteristics:
- Customer needs are the core of the business.
- Customer behaviors are predicted to increase sales.
- Businesses place emphasis on building long-term relationships by creating positive customer experiences.
- Customer services are prioritized.
- The company wants to know customers and their desires.
- Customer data is collected to understand buyer behaviors and interests.
- Product creation is based on customer data and feedback.
- The business balances customer needs and personal values.
- The organization takes an empathetic approach to customer service.
- Customer inconsistencies are taken into account.
- The company accepts customers’ ever-changing needs and evolves quickly.
- The business anticipates the impact of life forces (inflation and budget changes, increased technology, time constraints, and social, environmental, and safety concerns)
In recent years, customers have felt more than ever that they can make critical decisions for themselves. They have access to every bit of information out there, and can quickly flip from one brand to the next, depending on their culture, offerings, and incentives.
Is Life-Centricity the Future?
An evolving business model addresses the many life forces that impact a consumer’s motivation and decision-making. Today, most consumer purchases are done with both practical and ethical considerations, and businesses need to adjust accordingly.
This means that a customer won’t fit into a box, but has to be thought about as a human with evolving needs and inconsistencies.
According to Accenture, 69% of consumers think that their paradoxical behaviors are both human and acceptable. They are placing value in broader areas, making it impossible for businesses to oversimplify their motivations.
Compared to ten years ago, today’s consumer wants to:
- Support a brand’s products and culture.
- Feel like they’re making a difference in the world.
- Contribute to global concerns, such as climate change and food waste.
- Find value in products, without giving up conveniences.
- Create more personal time and freedom.
What Happens When Companies Don’t Evolve With Consumers?
The theory of life-centricity is that businesses will lose customers if they oversimplify them.
Think about the 2019 Peloton blunder—a holiday commercial of the infamous “Peloton wife” that made the company’s stock plummet by 9%. The ad was viewed as sexist, with an outdated standard of beauty.
Although the pandemic allowed a major boom for Peloton, as the use of at-home fitness equipment spiked, earnings following 2021 decreased and thousands of employees were laid off. Customers pushed back against paying for Peloton monthly subscriptions to use their equipment, competitive products with lower prices hit the market, and the company didn’t have a plan for the post-pandemic world, expecting to maintain demand despite fitness facilities opening again.
Insider reported on a leaked memo to employees from the new Peloton CEO Barry McCarthy saying that the company needed to accept “the world as it is, not as we want it to be if we’re going to be successful.”
This is a good example of why today’s brand strategies must be based on empathy and understanding. Customers want to buy from businesses that relate to the human experience and offer meaningful, yet convenient solutions.
How to Follow a More Life-Centric Strategy
1. View Customers Holistically
As opposed to a strictly customer-centric strategy, the life-centric method views customers holistically. Business leaders must examine customer motivations and base their marketing strategies, product development, and branding on these factors. Forbes suggests that “empathetic executives” who work to understand consumer situations and perceptions will win the hearts of their customers.
How will your customer be affected by cultural changes, growing technology, the environment, and the economy? These factors will change buying behaviors over and over again.
Target has an “expect more, pay less” brand promise. They offer consumers quality brands at affordable prices but have also committed to running the business ethically and responsibly. Target does this by partnering with diverse organizations and suppliers. They created the Target Forward sustainability strategy and are dedicated to curating an inclusive experience for consumers.
2. Abandon the “One-Size-Fits-All” Mentality
People don’t want to be defined by and then exploited for their buying tendencies. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, they want relevant options that will fit their unique needs. Businesses can connect with their customers by addressing their values and circumstances. To do this, ask yourself, “Does the business meet the consumers’ unmet needs in a flexible, adaptable way?”
Shopify is an online commerce platform that allows business owners to build virtual stores. Their mission is to “make commerce better for everyone, so businesses can focus on what they do best: building and selling their products.” The organization offers a variety of solutions to consumers, making the platform suitable for small and large business owners. Shopify also provides services to business owners with customizable templates, website developers, and apps for increased functionality.
3. Remain Flexible
Consumers are constantly learning, growing, and changing. Therefore, it’s impossible to expect repeated buying habits year after year. Companies must remain flexible, using data and insights to determine how to balance customer needs and external factors, such as financial instability and cultural shifts.
Blue Buffalo is a pet food brand that provides nutritious options made from high-quality, natural ingredients. More recently, they started an app and resource portal called Buddies. Here, the company offers informative articles on pet care, allows customers to connect with a community of pet parents, and features a live chat with trained experts to address questions related to pet ownership. This addition to the Blue Buffalo brand was particularly important after so many people welcomed pets into their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Make It Easy
Customers are turned off by barriers as they navigate the chaos and complexities of everyday life. They want to make purchases with ease and simplify what’s needed to fulfill their needs. When adopting a life-centric approach, get clear on how to eliminate foreseeable consumer barriers and create easy solutions for consumers.
Beyond Meat has created nutritious and sustainable plant-based protein with a mission to positively affect the planet and environment. They use non-GMO ingredients with no cholesterol, antibiotics, or hormones. To meet consumers where they are, Beyond Meat co-developed the McPlant burger for McDonald’s.
5. Take Responsibility
Consumers are becoming more aware of a brand’s cultural and environmental positions, and they want to know that their purchases are contributing to a greater cause. Ultimately, buyers are interested in whether the brand takes a stand on cultural issues, like the environment and diversity, and if it expresses these views in an authentic way.
TOMS states that they’re in business to improve lives. They invest one-third of their profits to grassroot initiatives, including cash grants and partnerships with community organizations to drive sustainable change. TOMS also strives to maintain a culture rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, they’re a Certified B Corporation that meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
6. Prioritize Company Culture
Beyond the customer experience, life-centric businesses also prioritize the employee experience. Employees who feel empowered by brand leaders and positive team culture will serve the business with passion, creating a genuine experience for consumers. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview, “For companies to be successful over a long period of time, you need more than a good idea and a good strategy—you need a culture that fosters growth.”
Microsoft states that their employee perks, benefits, and everything in between are essential to their success. Leaders believe that employees will perform better when they feel valued, so the company offers flexible work hours, social networking groups, volunteer opportunities, tuition assistance, well-being benefits, and more to support a positive corporate culture.
Should You Change Your Business Strategy?
There is no single path or strategy for life-centric businesses, which could make it feel challenging to implement. But shifting to this adaptable and empathetic mindset is likely inevitable, and can be done in a way that works for your business and consumers.
You can start implementing this strategy by:
- Pinpointing what matters to you and your company: Ask how your company can serve the community in a way that feels genuine to your customers and employees.
- Talking to your customers: It sounds simple, but 85% of products fail when companies don’t talk to their customers, according to a Forbes interview with Rob Holland, the CEO of Feedback Loop. Spend time talking to your customers and finding out about their values. It will make them feel heard and respected.
To get started, use your brand vision statement to highlight what matters to your company and why supporting it will make a positive change. The key is to create meaningful experiences for your customers so that they feel valued and responsible for the good your company is doing.
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- Who we are | Amazon. (n.d.). US About Amazon. https://www.aboutamazon.com/about-us
- Accenture. (2022, November 9). The human paradox: From customer centricity to life centricity. https://www.accenture.com/lu-en/insights/song/human-paradox
- Deloitte | Global services, reports, and industry insights. (n.d.). Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/de/Documents/WM+Digitalisierung.pdf
- Apple Podcasts. (2022, November 2). Why Businesses Need to Be Life-Centric. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/why-businesses-need-to-be-life-centric/id1561378348?i=1000584753331
- Amazon Employee Benefits. (n.d.). US About Amazon. https://www.aboutamazon.com/workplace/employee-benefits
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- Peloton slashed another 500 jobs as it fights to turn things around. Here’s how the fitness company went from a pandemic-era success story worth $50 billion to laying off more than 5,000 workers this year alone. (2022, October 6). Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/peloton-company-history-rise-fall-2022-2?international=true&r=US&IR=T
- Solis, B. (2022, May 24). You’re Probably Not A Customer-Centric Company Yet, But New Research Shows How To Change That. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolis/2022/05/24/youre-probably-not-a-customer-centric-company-yet-but-research-shows-how-to-change-that/?sh=39a1abd06d40
- CBS Mornings. (2017, September 26). Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on creating a culture that fosters ideas. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tyCydR30pg
- Drenik, G. (2021, September 21). 85% Of Products Fail When Companies Don’t Talk To Consumers—This Company Is Changing That. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/garydrenik/2021/09/21/85-of-products-fail-when-companies-dont-talk-to-consumers–this-company-is-changing-that/?sh=5daa9c412aa2