Consumer-facing companies risk irrelevance due to a lack of bold transformation plans, says EY


Consumer-facing companies must change how they are transforming their businesses and take bold steps in order to remain relevant to the data and technology-enabled smart consumer, according to EY FutureConsumer.Now research that identified five business imperatives for consumer-facing companies to act on now.

The FutureConsumer.Now imperatives are a result of qualitative research work with more than 200 business leaders, futurists and professionals from a variety of different industries for over a year to create a 360-degree view of what the future consumer could look like, and what this will mean for companies today.

Helen Merriott, Partner, EY says: “The thinking that has guided consumer-facing industries for decades is not the thinking that will enable them to succeed going forward. While most companies are taking action to meet short-term goals, they also need to understand the big technological shifts and consumer trends that stand to radically transform their industry and business. It’s vital that businesses grasp the fundamentally different expectations, wants and needs of the future consumer.”

Stemming from the research, EY offers the following recommendations for consumer-facing companies to address the five business imperatives:

  • Challenge every assumption

Agile market entrants are using technology and new routes to market to challenge incumbent business models, yet most companies are trying to protect legacy businesses by leveraging scale and chasing incremental improvements. Companies will need to address three requirements: maximise the declining benefits of existing business models to fund transformation; build on current capabilities in ways that drive new business models and create new capabilities that enable a pivot into new opportunities.

  • Choose your tribe

Companies that take leadership on the values and concerns of the stakeholders that matter most to their business, their tribe, will gain competitive advantage. By differentiating on their purpose and embedding it across every facet of their business, organisations stand to form deep, lasting, and profitable connections with consumers, talent and other stakeholders.

  • Win every micro-moment

Technology-empowered consumers will increasingly purchase goods, services and experiences in “micro-moments,” without a preference for a platform they use. Companies will need to customise and adapt what products they offer, at what price and when they offer them as consumers make purchasing decisions in split seconds, regardless of brand.

  • Deliver measurable outcomes

As technology provides the consumer with more insight on purchases than ever before, generalised brand promises will become redundant as consumers demand more measurable, personalised outcomes that go beyond the key benefits of the product or service. The smart consumers of the future will have total transparency about the quantifiable consequence of every purchase and consumption choice they make. Companies can show the transparent, positive impact of their product or service in order to better appeal to their target consumers.

  • Master the ecosystem

As new technologies and business models disrupt established value chains, successful consumer-facing companies will seize new opportunities based on where and how they can add value. Companies need to identify the consumer-centric ecosystem they want to create and decide where in this ecosystem they want to play.

As part of the FutureConsumer.Now research, the EY team identified over 150 drivers that could shape the future consumer, along with eight hypotheses related to how people will shop, eat, stay healthy, live, use technology, play, work and move. Through a series of one-week hackathons in five cities around the world, business leaders, futurists and industry professionals explored these hypotheses further and modeled possible future worlds and how they would impact consumer-facing companies.

Elaine Parr, partner, EY, says: “Consumer-facing companies have been confronting disruption for a decade. However, given the exponential speed of change, achieving relevance requires companies to anticipate the probable, possible and plausible consumer needs of the future to shape the right business model(s), the right portfolio, the right ecosystem and the right go-to-market to deliver a preferable future for their business.”