2023’s corporate landscape has been dominated by the AI transition, geopolitical conflict, and supply chain issues – all heavily impacting business operations. The bearing on organisations is palpable, but the effects of these global shifts on the consumer have also been significant, resulting in skip changes in what consumers now want, need and expect. Businesses must accept that their offerings – whether in experience, service, or product – must evolve in accordance with new consumer mindsets and the expectations being set by an explosion of new and disruptive companies. Failing to do so will undermine their competitiveness and ability to keep up with the pace of demand.
As we approach the end of the year, it is a fitting time to look ahead to the potential trends that will impact 2024 – and consider the changes that corporate decision makers can make to their operational and commercial strategies to run resilient businesses and ensure that they continue to engage their customers in authentic and valuable ways.
The impatient consumer
This year saw rising levels of friction and frustration between customers and corporations, brought on in part by a combination of poor service, price increases and sub-standard omnichannel experiences as businesses tried to offset economic challenges by making cuts throughout their organisations.
In 2024, as customers try to maintain lifestyle priorities while managing budgets, loyalty will become increasingly fluid. We will see customers vote with their feet and their wallets if interactions with brands and businesses do not improve in line with increased prices.
And whilst it may feel counterintuitive to fall back on technology as a solution for delivering more truly seamless personalised experiences, a continued lean into the intelligence that AI offers and a focus on data maturity will enable businesses to engage with their audiences on a deeper level, innovate more rapidly and deliver on evolving customer needs.
Changing horizons and life goals
Driven by the effects of ongoing geopolitical and global health challenges impacting business operations and personal journeys alike, consumers are looking toward more non-traditional, personalised life paths, often with shorter term goals in mind. A strict 5- or 10-year plan is no longer the norm when the year ahead looks unclear. In 2024 and beyond, businesses must be mindful of these deconstructed demographics and consumers’ need for short term wins if they want to continue engaging an audience whose priorities have shifted, and can no longer be sorted into generalised persona groups.
Pressing the mute button on technology
As the pace of technological innovation increases at a seemingly unmanageable rate, we will see more consumers seeking to control their relationship with technology – and possibly even switching off, as the proliferation of platforms to engage with becomes overwhelming.
This is in stark contrast to businesses, who will be looking to incorporate leading-edge technologies including AI into their operations in a much more comprehensive manner and taking advantage of the efficiencies and intelligence they can bring to a corporate environment.
The change in 2024 should be a move away from the siloed implementation use cases we have seen this year, where businesses adopted software and piloted proof-of-concepts on an ad hoc basis, with little reference to the orchestrated ecosystems they should be a part of. We know that the real benefit of AI, for example, comes from incorporating it into a full business strategy; one which provides appreciable value to the efficient running of a business, and answers the needs of their customers in useful, useable, and differentiated ways – rather than as technology-first experiments.
Taking this approach, companies can make sure they create future-proof solutions which put customers back in the driving seat of how they engage, rather than as just passengers on a technology train.
The unwavering power of the human touch
As technology takes on more day-to-day automation for businesses, companies will be looking to leverage innately human skills to engage, empathise and explain to maintain a customer relationship that feels organic and rooted in emotional intelligence. Whilst AI and other generative technologies continue to gather speed and mimic human rationale, there is no replacement for the real thing, and businesses who can balance both – applying human analytical skills to information gathering derived from engagement with technology – will reap the benefits.
Businesses must look to factor in the human element of any technologically driven transformation by prioritising workforce training and change management. This will be the biggest value-unlocker in the sphere of AI transition – understanding the synergies of the human-machine combination.
Following a fractious year of economic instability, businesses will be looking to the new year as a fresh start, but meeting their customers’ needs will remain paramount. Looking to customers’ activity, changing demands and global cues to inform strategies for the year ahead is key to navigating the fast-moving technological landscape we are currently experiencing.
About the Author
Sonali Fenner is the Managing Director of Strategy & Innovation at Slalom, the global consulting firm specialising in digital transformation.