Technology

#asaeTEC21: A New—and Timeless—Digital-First Consumer Is the Future

Disruption can be a gift, according to Brian Solis, bestselling author, digital anthropologist, and futurist. Among the positives: It created an ageless consumer segment that is leading the way.

There’s a different, inclusive generational category that has nothing to do with birthyear span or the stereotypes and baggage they often carry, like baby boomers or millennials. Instead, meet Generation Novel. Coined by Brian Solis, global innovation evangelist at Salesforce, Generation N refers to a new kind of customer, perhaps forever changed by the pandemic.

Generation N is digital-first and cross-generational, so whether a consumer is 25 or 55, when they use their favorite app or online service, they are going to have similar interests, behaviors, and aspirations.

“What makes it so profound is that it’s a huge contingent of the market,” said Solis, a keynote speaker at next week’s ASAE Technology Exploration Conference. “Whereas before it might have been a sliver based on age, now it is a sweeping imperative.”

The Upside of Disruption

Everything was disrupted in the last two years. “It was very deep, and it left a somatic marker within each of us, which is a visceral emotional bookmark that we’ll hold onto forever,” Solis said. But people persevered, in some cases without even knowing it.

Solis regards such disruption as a gift. “When the market evolves, disruption becomes inevitable,” he said. “It’s a historical phenomenon called creative destruction. The old things make way for the new.” Research backs it up: According to McKinsey’s “Quickening” study, 75 percent of U.S. consumers have tried different stores, websites, or brands and most are going to stick with those new brands after the pandemic.

“The core of Generation N is essentially the core of what it takes to be in business today,” Solis said. “The digital-first world is a hybrid world—a conscious world where everything from communications, to the services that associations provide their members, to marketing—everything needs to be reimagined for this new world.”

Put an “S” in Customer Experience

The paradigm shift is perspective. “Technology is not the problem anymore,” Solis said. “Technology is actually here to make things not only more human, but special—even magical.” Now it comes down to how people want to deploy the technology. The number-one initiative businesses are investing in today, because of the pandemic, is customer experience (CX).

CX could be technologies to improve what the customer experiences, or it could be completely reimagined. “Let’s add an apostrophe ‘s’ to customer experience,” Solis said. “Let’s remind ourselves it’s the customer’s experience.”

It starts with understanding what customers value, what they don’t value, and what they’re getting elsewhere. The goal should be to design better experiences that benefit customers. Because if they don’t have a good experience, that’s what they’re going to remember, Solis said.

(Handout photo)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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