Swiss Private Equity & Corporate Finance Association

Swiss Private Equity & Corporate Finance Association

July 5th, 2017 Swiss Private Equity & Corporate Finance Association (SECA) 

I was delighted to have the opportunity to be a part of a panel of distinguished professionals (see below) as we discussed the Connected Consumer. Our entire discussion revolved around how consumers today have more access to real time information in every decision that they need to make. Products can be viewed in one store, but reviewed and purchased on-line. The power of the retailer is moving back to the power of the “products and brands” to define themselves — however, it is the consumer who now controls believability, ratings, recommendations and loyalty of each brand, and it is the consumer who makes the purchase decision. The consumer now has the power.


Some excerpts from our collective panel discussion:  John Cook, conference chair, facilitated the panel discussion that led to many enlightening insights on the rapidly changing landscape of the Connected Consumer.

Barbara Fisher discussed how Trust and Authenticity were essential elements in creating everlasting relationships with consumers. The Edelman Trust Barometer ( is commonly used to see the trends in companies’ performance with consumer trust. Transparency with consumers is growing as they trust more the opinions of Experts and peers more than they do a company’s marketing.


Sushil Choudhari discussed how context is now required in all marketing campaigns, and the personalization of each marketing engagement needs to be relevant to the individual not an arbitrary classification of the customer. Mike Schweder discussed how stories around company values are now needed instead of the “old school” simple product placement ads, and that interacting with gamification can reach the millennials.


Sean O’Connor brought in the need to have privacy by design in all aspects of a digital strategy and that consumers would give away privacy and data in exchange for value. He also mentioned that many companies never realized their ROI because execution takes too long in many companies. Ben Neblock, reminded us all about the new buying style of Millennial’s and how it was more an attitude and style than an age range. The omnichannel has changed in his days at Macy’s to one of holistic presence in all channels that a consumer gains their knowledge about brands.


Digital is now pervasive in every aspect of business, whether you are selling through retail channels, Amazon or your own e-commerce platform. Manufacturers who do not take seriously the need to have a digital presence and establish a relationship with their customers, will ultimately fall to those competitors that do. Only 26% of digital transformations are successful because they forget that they need to restructure their entire customer journey including their own delivery and execution systems. By the end of 2017, 25% of companies will have a Chief Digital Officer. These individuals are combined Marketing and digital IT, with strong understanding of the revenue creation for companies. Digital is now the dominant path to growth and your customers.


WE SEE THE FUTURE — Essential that businesses establish strong digital presence because:

  • Retailers are getting out of Bricks & Mortar (JC Penny, Malls Closing in USA, Macy’s, etc.) — establishing their own e-commerce platforms. If your brand is not strong, why would retailers’ ecommerce platforms need you?
  • Impact of electric cars — will eliminate the need for as many convenience stores and gas/petrol stations we have today — we will charge our cars at home or at work. The consumer buying power may diminish and price comparison shopping will become ever more extreme and pervasive.
  • Driverless vehicles — Trucks become like trains — in convoys on long hauls; people reduce the need for as many vehicles and share; Concrete trucks drive to a construction site where an individual driver pours and then sends trucks back to refill, etc.  Again, without a strong brand and consumer value proposition many manufacturers will decline in relevance.
  • Automation — work from home becomes the norm, and only highly skilled workers are needed anywhere. Comparison shopping will all be digital and immediate. Without the digital analytic tools to monitor channel pricing changes and competitive positioning, brands will struggle.
  • Digital Education – why go to college when you could take online specific courses from the best professor in the world. Your degree would be from an amalgamation of best in the world teachers.
  • Platforms are ever evolving – people say Facebook has peaked and is in decline; however, with a few business purchases or capability additions they will be the “Bell of the Ball” again – for example if as they add more content (like NetFlix or Amazon) or Banking or? They will again be in a position to dominate ecommerce.

We see the world needing less employees which will cause radical shifts in consumer purchasing power and consequentially price sensitivity and comparison shopping digitally. We will need fewer workers globally and as a planet must embark on a new relationship driven society as Dr. Prabhu Guptara shared with us at SECA later in the day. We also see that Millennial’s are choosing experiences over buying assets. And if they do want something they search for it digitally before buying because of ratings and user feedback.


The Dawning of the Age of Platforms

For manufacturers this will mean the only “store” will be those digital stores that either they create and own, or those of the large Platforms. People are drawn to platforms for simplicity, variety, reviews, social interaction, loyalty programs, etc.


Content is king, as consumers have an insatiable need for more and more content. Manufacturers need to start creating relevant content or they will lose their consumers — whether that is how to use programming, entertainment, or personalization of interactions. Videos have become a dominant form in all digital solutions as the engagement factors with consumers are very high.


Speed is getting faster, with strategic time horizons shrinking to 18 months and this is especially true for technology. This means that continual refreshment of your business and digital strategy as well as thorough reviews of your customer journeys will be required to stay relevant in the consumers’ ever fickle digital brand relationship. Every digital interaction is compared to the best customer experience benchmark and if you are not capable of keeping up, you will be consumed by your competitors.


Customer Journey and Personalization are ever changing!

Great design is only created through fully understanding a customer’s journey — from discovery to purchase. And the more you can personalize the customers experience the greater their interaction, especially if you leverage data and AI.


The Panel of Professionals in Connected Consumer: 


The Swiss Private Equity & Corporate Finance Association (SECA) is the representative body for Switzerland‘s private equity, venture capital and corporate finance industries. SECA has the objective to promote private equity and corporate finance activities in Switzerland.

We at HIMI ( have a consortium of professionals who can digitally transform your enterprise into the state of the art consumer engagement vehicle that is required for the immediate future. Consumers in each country and channel behave differently and you must have a flexible and efficient model if you are to succeed. We can help companies build and retain that presence.



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