Consumers are wowed by four key factors. Sought-after consumer behaviour expert Ken Hughes explains what they are and what they mean for payments platforms.

 
Leading consumer behaviourist Ken Hughes calls current and future generations “blue-dot consumers” – referring to the blue dot on digital maps that locates the consumer at the centre of their own universe.
 
Hughes argues that these consumers expect what he calls PACE: personalisation (“I want it my way”), authenticity (“I trust my peer network”), contextual communication (“talk to me only with relevant benefit”) and, above all, a shareable experience (“something that makes me look good on Instagram”).
 
We sat down with Hughes to talk about what this model means for payments platforms, and look at what businesses can do to stay ahead of the curve. 
 

Setting the PACE

 
“Personalisation is the key to consumers,” Hughes says. “Obviously for the payments industry there is an additional layer, as the personalisation part also feeds into security and seamless payments.”
 
However, he says personalisation needs to extend beyond functionality, and consumers will want to feel the system knows them, adapts to them and offers unique opportunities for them.
 
“Consumers do not want to interact with faceless brands,” Hughes says. Authenticity comes through being visible, standing for something or meaning something. “Peer-to-peer is the new power and unless consumers are talking about your brand, you don’t exist.”
 
Hughes says marketing communications are only useful if they reach the consumer at the right time and place in their customer journey. “Talking to a shopper in context is key here: when your airline pushes the boarding card to the front of your phone as your car pulls up at the airport [by geofencing their app], that is context,” he says. “Learn when to add situational value with every consumer interaction.”
 
Today’s consumer demands experiential equity from a brand. They want an experience they can feel, talk about and, most importantly, share. “When I pay with one click it is seamless, but paying by face is an experience,” Hughes says. “We need to build in more experiential elements if we want consumers to talk about the brand and feel some kind of emotional link.”
 

Natives meet immigrants

Hughes likes to think of consumers as “before Google” (BG) and “after Google” (AG), with the AGs born after 1980. How can payments platforms find a balance between the two groups?
 
“BG consumer expectations are not as high as those of AG consumers but the BG consumer is becoming more demanding,” Hughes says. “The digital ‘immigrant’ has been naturalised and is acting like a digital native. Adoption is becoming the norm for all consumers.”
 
Hughes believes platform design should be tailored to the AG consumer because all modern consumers, no matter their age, expect qualities such as seamless, frictionless and instantaneous services.
 

Looking ahead

Consumer power has grown to the extent that what consumers say to each other about a brand becomes its truth. Hughes says it is critical to have your customers tell your story and become brand ambassadors.
 
“Staying on the curve is hard enough in a disruptive environment, let alone ahead of it,” he says, noting that readiness to adapt is as important as predicting the changes themselves.
 
“The essence of the blue-dot metaphor is that it is built and focused around you, the consumer. As you move, brands move. We feel [the consumer’s] pulse and are ready to pivot our brand and business when you set off in another direction.
 
“A brand’s reaction speed will define its success – being able to pivot in time and having a business strategy built around the customer, not your own brand or internal product or process.” 
 
This artice represents the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAY.
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