Customer-centricity emerged several years ago as an ideology that would disrupt traditional marketing beliefs, a philosophy capable of updating theoretical rules and practical customs. At its heart, customer-centricity is an emphasis on the customer and every single aspect of his or her buying journey. Here, customers are no longer passive recipients of messages that they cannot participate in, but discerning and conscious individuals who also seek value and relevance in their purchasing experiences.
In recent times, in a reality complicated by uncertainty for the future and enriched by previously unimagined opportunities, companies are increasingly shifting their focus to a deeper, more holistic approach known as the “life-centric approach.” This transition represents a significant paradigm shift in the way companies interact with their audiences: it’s not just the needs of customers that are being considered, but the broader context of their lives.
Life-centric approach: let’s start with an excellent example
In digital marketing, customer centricity is a fundamental concept that revolves around an imperative that places the customer at the center of all business strategies and activities. According to this view, understanding, interacting with, and satisfying the needs and preferences of the target audience makes it possible to build stronger relationships and promote business growth.
To explain further, let’s look at an excellent example. According to its mission statement, Amazon aims “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.” This means—in the words of Jeff Bezos—that it has an “obsessive compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor.” And so, in an effort to provide the best possible shopping experience, the company has developed interactive methods, such as one-click shopping, personalized recommendations, and prioritizing customer reviews. In recent years, Amazon has gradually shifted its focus to include not only the customer experience but also its values. As part of its identity statement, Amazon strives to be “Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.” In the company’s Climate Pledge, it has the goal of reaching zero net carbon emissions by 2040. In an effort to evolve and anticipate customer needs, Amazon has adopted the “life-centric” model that contemporary customers expect from their brands.
A life-centric approach is a holistic perspective that focuses on enhancing and improving the overall quality of an individual’s life. It goes beyond traditional or simply client-centered models because it considers a person’s well-being, happiness, and fulfillment as primary goals. In a life-centric approach, products, services, and experiences are designed and delivered to positively impact various aspects of a person’s life, including physical and mental health, personal growth, and work-life balance.
A life-centric approach aims to create real value for individuals by recognizing that people’s needs and desires extend beyond immediate transactions and include broader aspirations and life experiences.
From consumption to life: how a “paradoxical” concept was born
While the consumer aspects of the pursuit of individual happiness are nothing new, in business and marketing the expression “life-centric approach” does not express a standardized or widely recognized concept (such as that referred to by the label “customer centric”). In specific contexts, some particularly forward-thinking organizations have already begun to use it to describe a philosophy or strategy that emphasizes the well-being and overall quality of life of individuals.
But let’s take a step back and investigate the evolution from customer centricity to a holistic approach that can embrace the broader spectrum of people’s lives.
In 2017, Deloitte found that companies with a customer-centric strategy were 60% more profitable than those without a customer focus. Several years back, before the spread of the internet, brands tended to focus exclusively on products, with a product-centric approach that entrusted sales entirely to product features and functionality. Over the past two decades, and particularly with digitization, companies (most of them, at least) have gradually changed their strategies. Thus, over a relatively short period, we have moved from product centricity to consumer centricity and are about to enter the era of life-centricity.
How the life-centric approach explains paradoxical consumer behaviors
An episode of the Built for Change Podcast by Accenture, Why Businesses Need to Be Life-Centric, is perhaps one of the first passages where the life-centric model is outlined more systematically. The reflection seemingly takes its cue from evidence that has emerged from the past two complicated years: amid inflation, pandemic upheaval, climate change, and other events beyond our control, we consumers have probably felt lost, grappling with an unfamiliar reality where traditional points of reference have suddenly disappeared. This perception has also affected our purchasing decisions, which are somewhat less orderly and consistent than in the recent past.
This means that many consumers, even if they wish to make purchases that are in line with their values (e.g., sustainability and social responsibility), are now faced with special circumstances that can lead them to make contradictory decisions. Therein lies the paradox of the title of this section: in the incongruent behaviors of customers who desire purchases that can benefit themselves as well as the wider community. In this regard, Chief Strategy Officer of Accenture Song, Baiju Shah says that we have all experienced a radical reassessment of our personal values, what matters, and how we present ourselves, and this is what manifests itself in ‘paradoxes’ in values and behavior.
If these paradoxes, which are driven by exogenous forces such as inflation, social movements, and public health, are impacting consumer habits, then companies will increasingly need to equip themselves with the theoretical tools necessary to deal with a path that now seems to be mapped out: the path from customer centricity to life-centricity.
Now that we’ve introduced these two modern approaches to marketing, let’s go a little deeper.
Differences between customer centricity and a life-centric approach
In the contemporary marketing world, two basic philosophies have emerged that companies can adopt in an effort to connect with consumers: customer centricity and a life-centric approach. Both strategies share the goal of creating meaningful and lasting relationships with customers, but they take different paths to achieve it.
Customer centricity, often considered the cornerstone of contemporary marketing, revolves around understanding and meeting the needs and desires of individual customers. On the other hand, the life-centered approach seeks to engage customers on a larger scale, recognizing that their interactions with a brand are only one of many aspects of their lives. Companies can strategically leverage the strengths and limitations of each model to build valuable connections.
Focus and objective
Customer centricity: a business-oriented approach that aims to create products, services, and experiences that meet customer expectations.
Life-centric approach: not only the customer, but their entire life and overall well-being is taken into consideration. It can include health, happiness, work-life balance, and personal fulfillment, among other aspects.
Customer centricity: the main purpose is to foster business growth by delivering value to customers through the provision of products or services that customers want or need.
Life-centric approach: the major emphasis is on the holistic well-being of individuals. Products, services, and experiences are all conceived as contributing to a person’s overall quality of life, happiness, and fulfillment.
Customer centricity: success is measured through metrics such as customer satisfaction, retention rates, and sales growth. The focus is on how the company serves its customers.
Life-centric approach: here, broader parameters—overall happiness, health and well-being, work-life balance, and personal development—apply. The emphasis is on how products or services contribute to a person’s overall life satisfaction.
Customer centricity: the impact of a customer-centric approach is primarily on the customer-business relationship and the creation of loyal consumers.
Life-centric approach: the impact extends beyond the immediate transactional relationship and produces a positive difference in the way people live and experience life.
Companies that embrace a customer-centric approach tailor products and marketing to specific customer segments, provide exceptional customer service, and use data and analytics to customize their offerings. Organizations that choose a life-centric model prefer products or services that promote health and well-being, support work-life balance, and contribute to personal growth and happiness. In essence, while customer-centricity revolves primarily around customer-brand interactions and promoting business success, a life-centered approach takes a more comprehensive view, shifting the focus to products and services that have the ability to affect an individual’s overall well-being.
Embracing life-centered marketing: a paradigm shift
Marketing methods are continually challenged by innovations that arise from daily marketing practices and consumer habits. Important, operationally valid models like the customer centric model are being updated to make way for progressively more empathetic and holistic approaches where customers become people, first and foremost: not just the targets of sales proposals, but individuals with unique needs, values, and aspirations. A life-centric approach brings numerous benefits for marketers and companies. Let’s look at them one by one.
- Emphasis on value creation: companies move beyond offering products and services that meet immediate needs and focus instead on creating long-term value. They aspire to become permanent presences and true partners in the customer’s life path.
- Deep understanding of customer context: unlike customer centricity, which focuses primarily on demographics and buying behavior, life-centric marketing deepens the understanding of the real contexts where customers live, work, and spend their leisure time: values, beliefs, challenges, and life stages. Companies personalize their offerings to align them perfectly with the lives of their target audiences.
- Personalization: the life-centric approach leverages advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence to deliver tailored experiences. By analyzing large amounts of data, brands can offer products and services that perfectly match customers’ lives and anticipate their needs and preferences.
- Sustainability and social responsibility: if life-centered marketing recognizes the importance of sustainability and social responsibility, brands must align their values with those of their customers.
- Storytelling and emotional connection: in a life-centric approach, stories are powerful tools that brands can share to connect with customers on a personal level and create emotional connections. These stories should not only reflect the brand’s values but, more importantly, relate to the customer’s life journey.
Embracing a life-centric approach is a strategic choice that has the potential to redefine the way companies connect with their audiences. By recognizing and prioritizing the holistic well-being and values of consumers, companies can build authentic relationships that transcend traditional transactional models. It’s an approach that fosters trust and loyalty, promotes social responsibility and sustainability, and aligns companies with the evolving needs of today’s increasingly aware and elusive consumers.
The irresistible rise of the life-centric approach
Research by Accenture suggests that companies that follow a life-centered approach will be better positioned to meet future challenges. The survey, which involved more than 25,000 consumers in 22 countries, reveals that while 88% of executives believe their customers are changing very fast, companies are failing to keep up. It also shows that 64% of consumers want faster responses from brands. For a global market focused primarily on the customer or customer centricity, it’s troubling that these two planes—expectations and reality—are so misaligned. Accenture’s explanation for this mismatch is that people no longer want to be seen simply in their monetary value, but as human beings. Here then is where one last statistic makes sense: 69% of consumers believe that their paradoxical behaviors are human and acceptable.
A business model that can adapt to such a demand must account for all the factors that can affect customers’ motivation and decision-making and their practical and ethical considerations. This means taking note of the multidimensionality of a consumer who cannot be defined under a single label but must be conceived in his or her fullness as an individual. Therefore, from customer centricity to a life-centric approach, the path is now marked out and the journey seems unstoppable.