07/01/2014 02:50 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2014

Attitudes and trends of the new consumer

In difficult times, we are increasingly seeing more examples of what my friend David Konzevik has called the expectation revolution.

Technology is rapidly advancing. There is a phenomenon that Konzevik calls the "knowledge explosion," where new knowledge quickly makes many of the concepts that are part of our daily lives obsolete. In this cycle of knowledge, which is getting increasingly shorter, technology facilitates access to information, leading to a wave of expectations that shapes the attitudes and trends of people, forging a new consumer and citizen.

Under these assumptions, Konzevik warns us that we must be prepared to meet the new demands of better informed customers and citizens, who expect more from us.

Consumers, especially those who are located at the base of the pyramid, are increasingly more demanding. They are continually demanding lower prices, higher quality, more choices, guarantees and quicker service. To address these needs, we have to ask: what makes us different from the competition?

To meet customer expectations, companies face increasing pressure. Therefore it is important to set higher goals; it is not enough to exceed what we have done in the past if another company is growing more than we are. In a world of rising expectations, we must understand that it is not about being better than we were yesterday; we have to compare ourselves with the best companies worldwide.

Today, consumers can walk into a store, ask for a price, take out their cell phone and talk to a family member in another shop and compare numbers. This is something that requires us to be constantly on the cutting edge, because it is a serious mistake to underestimate your clients. Given this panorama, Konzevik raises the idea that there are five drivers of company growth:

  • The first is time. Real time is instantaneous. A company will be world class when it works in real time, because the client is no longer willing to wait; he or she will go to the competition. Increasingly, people are willing to pay a cost for the immediate satisfaction of their needs. We must understand that time has a cost, depending on the person, and therefore we have to know what that opportunity cost is.
  • The second is space or distance. In today's digital world, distances have disappeared. A customer can purchase a product here or in any city in the world. This means that we cannot have merchandise in stock that customers do not want.
  • The third is connectivity. Everyone wants to be instantly connected everywhere. The use of cellphones has grown significantly among lower-income sectors of society. A tremendous revolution has taken place worldwide in terms of access to cell phones, with the number of users growing from 500 million to five billion in the past 10 years. The same applies to the use of Internet and social networks. When making an analysis of connectivity we shouldn't underestimate the demand at the base of the pyramid.
  • The fourth is privacy. Intimacy has been lost in modern society. If someone makes a mistake and information on it is disclosed and circulated on the Internet, it can be used to ruin his or her life. In an environment of insecurity, no one wants to make their economic position public. In relation to companies, digital security is indispensable to overcome the competition.
  • The fifth is life expectancy. At the beginning of the 20th century, people lived, on average, 35 years. Today, the average is 80. This changes the makeup of different customer segments, as there is today a market for children or young people or senior citizens and soon there will be one for the very elderly.
One final point, which we have mentioned in previous blogs, is creativity. In other words, how to differentiate ourselves from the competition, since this will provide us with a competitive advantage. With creativity, excellent service, and speed, we can make that difference.