I have recently conducted a series of meetings with clients where I shared a world view, the trends in insights and CX, recommendations for the future, and deep dives into topics like communities, measuring ROI of insights, and how to humanize CX programs. In this post, I share the global trends that are impacting the world in ways that will change the world of insights and CX. In the next few posts, I will share other aspects of my meetings.
Why focus on the global macro trends?
I believe that if we want to understand where the world of insights & CX is heading, we first need to understand the wider world.
When looking at trends I find it helpful to use a model, in this post I have used the PEST (Politics, Economics, Socio-Cultural, and Technology) model. There is nothing particularly magic about PEST, compared with say Porter’s Five Forces, PESTLE, SWOT, STEEP and others. They are simply tools to help you organize your thoughts.
Looking globally, we see a rise of nativism and popularism, for example, Donald Trump in the USA, Marine le Pen in France, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Narendra Modi in India, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and the BREXIT vote in the UK. Countries are increasingly looking inwards and seeking simpler solutions.
Another trend, almost orthogonal to the nativism/popularism trend, is the rise of identity politics, for example, Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, LGBTQ+, and #MeToo. These movements illustrate a tendency to tackle single topics, rather than broad movements with an overriding ideology.
A massively important factor is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, along with the sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia, and the heightened concerns about China’s territorial plans. As well as the human catastrophes, there are economic consequences, energy prices are soaring because of boycotting Russian gas, and issues around the banning of China’s Huawei from IT infrastructure contracts. Sanctions and barriers appear to be on the increase, and when wars start there is always a risk they will spread.
The final trend I want to highlight is the rise in controls, legislation, regulation and restrictions. In recent times, the floodgates became apparent with Europe’s GDPR, which has since spread to a much wider phenomenon. From the Great Firewall of China to the rise in insider trading regulations, to attempts by national governments to regulate the activities of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, we have seen new controls. There is a trend to regulate, legislate, and prosecute. For businesses, this has meant spending more on systems, for data users, it has meant finding methods of working that stay inside the laws and regulations.
The first thing to highlight is good news. In the Western economies, there has generally been a post-pandemic bounce back. Revenues are up and so is employment, this has resulted from the massive spending by Governments during the pandemic, as well as spending that was constricted during the pandemic being released.
The big threat that is emerging is inflation. Countries are posting inflation figures that are the highest for 20, 30 and even 40 years. At the time of writing this post, the USA had an inflation rate of 8%, the UK of 9%, the EU of 8%, and Australia posted an inflation rate of 5%. This inflation has many causes, including the amounts spent by Governments during the pandemic, the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the post-pandemic economic bounce, and local reasons (for example BREXIT in the UK). Two consequences of inflation are a) increased interest rates (including increased mortgage interest rates), b) increased poverty for those whose incomes fall behind the price increases. One of the challenges for society and business is that there is a whole generation of people (including managers in companies) who have never lived in inflationary times, for example, have never lived with mortgage interest rates of 10% or more.
One of the key unknowns is what post-pandemic means. It is not currently knowable which pre-pandemic trends will return, what activities that developed during the pandemic will persist, and what new trends will emerge. One of the key challenges for insight and research teams will be to map out this new terrain over the next 18 months.
One social trend to watch is the growth of the metaverse. It is often said that with changes we tend to overestimate the short-term and underestimate the long-term. The discussion about the metaverse tends to focus on virtual and augmented reality, but in truth, the metaverse is simply the remorseless expansion of and connection of what we used to call cyberspace. The integration of media, social media, payment systems, storage, gaming, and yes, some virtual reality, is paving the way for the next Amazons, Facebooks and Teslas.
The final trend I want to highlight is the ‘say-do’ gap. This phenomenon has been around for years, but its importance has been growing. To give you one example, ask Millennials what sort of companies they want to buy from and they are likely to say ethical and sustainable companies – but when we track their data, we see that they have burgers delivered by Uber and use iPhones (despite Apple’s poor human rights and environmental credentials). This is not to say that Millennials are fibbing, it is just that like everybody else they are poor witnesses to their own motivations – but it makes assuming that their top-of-mind comments are their key drivers very risky.
You can tell when a technology is approaching the stages that Gartner describe as the Slope of Enlightenment and Plateau of Productivity, it is the point when people talk less about the technology. Electric cars, voice recognition, algorithmic advertising, smart media, digital personalization, biometrics, automated translation, transcriptions and recognition systems. All of these are being discussed less because they are becoming more common and more productive.
The three key trends are: 1) the accelerating shift from professional human activity to smart machines, 2) the network of digital information becoming ever denser and integrated, and 3) the consolidation of power into a reducing number of companies.
The world is changing and if the world changes, then insights and research must change too. In the next post, I shall explore the direct forces that will shape insights and research over the next few years. Following that, I will discuss the key trends in insights, CX and within specific domains, such as finance.
I will cover trends such as the participant crisis, the inevitable rise in democratized research (using DIY tools), and a shift from using CX programs to measure compliance towards using CX as a driving business change through adaptive customer-centricity.
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