Futurist Chris Riddell: Why businesses that focus on customer experiences will come out in front

There is a growing realisation among large “old-world” corporations that consumers are now less interested in only buying and accumulating more products, and more interested in experiences, according to futurist Chris Riddell.

These companies are having “ah-ha” moments and opting to acquire or partner with newer businesses and startups in a bid to sell experiences, Riddell told a room of small business owners in Geelong on Wednesday night at a Small Business Festival of Victoria event, using the example of General Motors investing US$500 million ($655 million) in ride-sharing business Lyft.

But Riddell says small businesses have an opportunity to get out in front of large corporates by making the most of their data to design meaningful customer experiences.

“We’re now in an era of consumer experiences, we don’t want to buy stuff anymore,” Riddell said, adding that instant gratification and on-demand products and services are now the name of the game.

“The generation today want to subscribe to a monthly experience, to have the experience and then move on.”

Advances in technology have brought with them an explosion in consumer choice, Riddell said.

“Consumer now have more choice around what they want to see then ever before in history,” he said.

‘We’re also more distracted today than we ever have been in history with more devices in our lives.”

Riddell believes small businesses are well placed to capitalise on these trends.

“Small business owners, your opportunity to engage people at any time of the day has never been higher,” he told the room.

“Social media now allows you to get right to them at any point in their day. You don’t have to pay and spray advertising on local television anymore and not know whether you’re reaching people or not.

“But you have to craft and curate personalised experiences. You cannot simply put the same content across all devices.”

Data is the “new oil”

In order to craft these personalised experiences, Riddell says business owners need to collect and use the riches of data available to them about their customers.

He cited home-grown shoe retailer Shoes of Prey as an example of a business that is successfully providing customised experiences to individual customers, both online and offline, which is something the retailer has been doing since it started building its email list on the Mailchimp platform when it was first getting off the ground.

“Data is your new oil,” Riddell said.

“You have to get the data within your business to allow it to help you tell a story about your industry and why you’re in it.

“Find the data, mine it and refine it.”

While the data within an organisation may come from its sales or customer database, Riddell says the employees and clients of a business are also a valuable source of data.

“Your future will be defined by knowledge,” he said.

“The people that are in your organisation and also the people that you work with, they’ve got years of insights into what happened in the past. Use that to help you tell a story.”

Riddell challenged the business owners in the room to ask themselves the same question each day: “Are you relevant?”

“Challenge your relevancy every day,” he said.

“Think differently, reinvent yourself.”

This article was first published on SmartCompany.

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