‘Consumers’ are Becoming Obsolete, So How Should Businesses React?

post consumerism and what businesses can do

My most radical prediction is that in a matter of years, the word ‘consumer’ will have lost all relevance. Look at the signs, and it’s clear that consumerism is already fading.

In its place, we’re seeing more reciprocal relationships between brands and their customers, relationships based on genuine engagement, and not merely a quick transaction. I call the people building this movement ‘post-consumers’.

Those leading the way come from younger generations who are now becoming adults. Post-consumers will ensure that they are never taking more than they give, and demand ethically-sourced products from environmentally-conscious companies.

They’ll take product advice from friends and influencers, and seek to ignore traditional advertising and marketing. In the new world, churn rate will be worth far more than cost per acquisition.

So what must companies do to prepare for post-consumerism? How can they attract conscious customers looking for something more long-term, rather than a cheap date?

1. Build your brand around your community

Future brands will closer resemble tribes than companies. In fact, there are already some brilliant examples. Community-centric brands like giffgaff and Monzo ask customers to help them make their big decisions, and even work with them to inform their marketing strategies.

Many of giffgaff’s TV ads have been written and directed by their customers, who have also appeared in them. They’ve even provided customer-to-customer support in exchange for discounts and other exclusive rewards.

In effect, giffgaff have crowdsourced their entire business model, and have become a major UK mobile provider using a small number of true employees.

In a talk, giffgaff’s CMO called herself a ‘brand custodian’ as opposed to a ‘brand guardian’. In her view, rather than claiming ownership, she believes that she’s just looking after the brand. So in giffgaff’s eyes, their customers are the real owners – the staff are just the caretakers.

Another step ahead of the game is Monzo, the challenger bank. They encourage their customers to become co-owners of the brand, and have run numerous crowdfunding rounds to do so.

Just like when they wanted to change their name (formerly Mondo), they consult their tribe before making every major decision. They even asked them which elements of Monzo’s service they should charge for. In these ways, Monzo are leading the pack when it comes to democratic decision-making.

These are rare and impactful examples of post-consumerism in action, but I predict that this will become the gold standard in the near future.

2. Turn your customers into investors

Around 10% of us already own part of a small UK company – and this number is growing. We’ve taken ownership through equity crowdfunding campaigns, and as increasing numbers of growth companies and medium enterprises are offering customer shares, we’re getting more and more chances to do so.

Equity crowdfunding is the easiest and best way for such companies to let their customers invest. If you don’t know where to start, there are a bunch of crowdfunding support partners out there to assist, and plenty of workshops to walk you through the process, and up your chances of success.

Some examples are Virgin StartUp’s Crowdboost, and Crowdcube and Grant Thornton’s Crowdfund Bootcamp. My own company, TribeFirst, provides a managed service to support companies who want to crowdfund.

If you don’t think crowdfunding’s for your, you can always sell shares directly to your customers. In this case, check out SeedLegals, or you could even form your own licenced, FSA-compliant platform on Envestry.

3. Keep your eye out for investment opportunities

As a crowdfunding expert, it won’t be a shock that I think crowdfunding is the best way for companies to get investment. However, as crowdfunding campaigns are run within a defined period, they’re not ideal for companies who want to be constantly open to investment from customers.

Such companies should look to get listed on a small cap public exchange like AIM or NEX Exchange. The downside though, is that they’ll have to meet the extra cost of being a public company.

BrewDog found a way around this by running several simultaneous campaigns on both rewards and equity crowdfunding platforms. It’s clear that Brewdog have crowdfunding in their blood, but their strategy does seem like a massive effort.

Using Envestry is the easiest way to make sure your company is always open for investment. As there’s no time limit, companies can allow their customers to invest whenever they like.

4. Give customers their own set of marketing tools

You should always reward your investors and regular customers, and that can be as simple as giving away some exclusive merch or early access to a new product or service. Monzo managed to become the fastest growing bank ever by giving out golden tickets to early customers and investors.

These early adopters were able to get 0% commission and fees and a prepayment card to use overseas. Then when they launched a crowdfunding campaign down the line, they gave their backers an exclusive ‘investor’ debit card to seal the deal.

The lesson here is that the reward doesn’t need to be an elaborate gesture that breaks the bank. Post-consumers want to feel like they’re an important part of something, and then be able to brag about it to their mates.

So by giving exclusive treatment to your customers, they’re likely to talk about it and create some positive traction. This type of organic marketing will be the only type that flourishes in the post-consumerist world.

Finally, always keep your customers in the know, and not just when you’ve got good news to share. Be open with them about the bad stuff too. Social media and word of mouth will continue to play a key role in attracting post-consumers.

In fact, even more so than is the case today. Transparent communication with your tribe is the best way to build a strong bond and ensure a healthy customer/company relationship. Post-consumers will demand nothing less, so it’ll be worth your while to get a head start.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by John Auckland, a crowdfunding specialist and founder of TribeFirst. Tribefirst is the world’s first dedicated marketing communications agency to support equity crowdfunding campaigns, and has helped raise in excess of £17m for over 50 companies. John is a regular contributor to ByteStart, and you can benefit from more of his expertise and insight into crowdfunding in;

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