The ancient Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” might be neither ancient nor Chinese, but it’s wholly applicable to 2020. Words and phrases like “unprecedented” and “the new normal” are, well, the new normal as infection and social unrest sweep the globe. It’s easy to get swept up in the zeitgeist of revolution, and it’s true that consumers (let’s call them what they are: people) are changing. The challenge we face as business leaders is to understand what’s really driving the change; which changes matter now; which changes will stick as the pandemic recedes from daily reality to memory; and what action you should take as a result.

The good news is that we can see several signposts now that point to where we believe European consumers will end up in the mid to long term.

To understand what’s driving the shift, we have to examine three powerful forces and how they interplay:

  • European consumers are increasingly empowered. They are using digital devices in more advanced ways to research, buy, consume and express themselves; they want to take control of their choices; and they expect brands to blend their offline and online experiences.
  • European consumers are becoming more values-driven. They are increasingly basing affiliation, purchasing, and loyalty decisions on their own values and those of the brands they want to associate with.
  • The pandemic is amplifying and accelerating the shift. As consumers embrace enforced digital behaviors in lockdown, the pandemic has supercharged the urgency for consumer brands to accelerate their digital transformation and become agile.

It’s incumbent on you as a business leader — whether you are a CMO, a customer experience leader, or a product owner — to embrace three key strategies for future success:

  • Shift to digital, direct-to-customer (DTC) engagement, and business models. Brands such as Adidas and Jabra are building DTC digital commerce capabilities to decouple their fate from their retail partners, and while the pandemic has magnified the importance of direct digital sales, most brands still generate the majority of their revenue from wholesale relationships. To truly be masters of their own destiny, brands also need to change the dynamics of their retail partner relationships, moving from a role of supplier to one of business partner.
  • Orient around customer outcomes and journeys. Forward-thinking companies like The Economist, E.ON, and Lloyds Banking Group are shifting their focus away from channels and touchpoints and toward journeys instead. Why? Because journeys are customers’ lived realities. But not all journeys are created equally. As tools like journey orchestration platforms increasingly instrument complex customer journeys in real time, firms must embrace the organizational structures, processes, and insights to optimize their customers’ experiences around the outcomes customers want, not internal vanity metrics.
  • Embed your company values in your customer and employee experiences. As social media lays the ethics of businesses bare in terms of how you treat your employees, and the pandemic and social movements such as Black Lives Matter challenge consumers to reexamine what’s truly important to them, firms must make a stand. CrossFit’s ex-CEO Greg Glassman’s comments jeopardized the brand’s partnership with Reebok and caused many CrossFit affiliates and star athletes to question their association with the brand. As further revelations of CrossFit’s corporate culture emerge, Rogue Fitness is capitalizing on CrossFit’s failure by running its own virtual livestreamed games event.

To help you understand how these key trends will impact the future of B2C buying in Europe, and how your business should respond, we are running a linked series of complimentary webinars on June 30 and July 1 and 2. We will:

  • Kick off with a virtual “keynote” from Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Thomas Husson covering the key consumer trends in play in Europe.
  • Continue with two parallel tracks on day two, when VP and Research Director Oliwia Berdak will deep-dive into the future of financial services and autonomous finance, while Analyst Michelle Beeson and Principal Analyst Ryan Skinner will examine the future of buying in retail, branded manufacturing, and consumer packaged goods.
  • Come back together on day three, when Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Joana de Quintanilha will reveal some first-look insights into how we are approaching a new research stream on customer journey benchmarking and the emotion of buying.

Find out more and register here:

I hope you’ll join us, for we definitely live in interesting times.