Haydn Townsend, Africa Lead for Accenture Song in Africa

Many are turning to technology in hopes that a new digital approach will reshape their operations and keep them a step ahead of their competitors. But while over 95% of executives (in our recent survey) are accelerating their transformation, an astounding 97% of them acknowledge that, at best, this effort allows them to keep pace but will not on its own help them create new growth.

Within our research, however, we discovered a vital ray of light: some companies are beginning to break out. The highest growth companies are widening their strategic aperture, moving beyond essential digital upgrades and using technology more creatively to solve emerging customer needs. Most importantly, these companies are gaining momentum not by being product-centric or customer-centric but by becoming life-centric, i.e. taking a broader view to see customers in their whole lives and adapt to their ever-changing needs and priorities.

Five life-centric plays to drive growth

Our research has found that companies furthest on the road to life-centricity are best positioned to maintain their relevance and thrive. They are three times more likely to outperform their peers on speed-to-market and almost five times more likely to beat customer lifetime value comparison. Companies that lead in life-centricity will outpace the growth rate of their peers by nine percentage points annually. Companies that lag furthest behind in life centricity are likely to shrink year-on-year. For a $10 billion company, this could mean the difference between growing $4 billion in new annual revenues over five years or shrinking by $1 billion in the same period.

We have identified five distinct, empirically proven ways companies on the path toward life-centricity capture growth amid uncertainty. These life-centric plays can be used independently but have compounding effects if combined with the others.

Play #1 Gain a profound understanding of people

Oversimplifying people and ignoring the complexities that shape each customer leave opportunities for value creation on the table.

A combination of human and machine intelligence allows us to understand the interplay between these roles and forces more deeply than ever before. Through artificial intelligence, analytics, ethnography, trend forecasting and deep qualitative and quantitative research, leaders can create more dynamic, expressive customer segments that can evolve as their customers do. This dynamic view allows them to spot proactive opportunities for growth.

Play #2 Broaden your canvas for value creation

As people rethink their sense of purpose, they expect businesses to align with their values and address the more significant problems they see in their lives and the world. Companies that narrowly view their role in society and the marketplace miss the opportunity to provide solutions to unmet needs and reap the resulting profits. Those that don’t broaden their mission around social, environmental, economic and other values put their relevance at risk.

Meeting these needs in this new world is just as crucial as completing them.

Play #3 Creatively transcend industry norms

Intelligence capabilities are broadening, allowing innovators to identify creative ways to apply technology and talent to solve new problems. Meanwhile, customers don’t see industry lines the same way companies do – and are increasingly permitting brands to play different roles in their lives. Consider the ride-sharing apps that expanded from connecting people with cars to scooters, motorbikes, bicycles, food deliveries, product orders and more. They saw themselves as competition not just for taxis but for any point-to-point movement of people and goods.

By connecting their more profound understanding of customers’ lives to potential new uses for talent and technology, companies can expand beyond the boundaries of their traditional industry and into a broader ecosystem of meeting people’s needs. It’s not just a technology update; it’s an entire mindset makeover that brings creativity into the boardroom to seize opportunities for value creation, growth, and relevance.

Play #4 Design a delightful experience continuum

Technology makes things easier, but as new tools, platforms and functionalities proliferate and the lines between the physical and digital worlds blur, good customer experiences are more challenging to create. Companies are adding tech that serves a specific silo, such as marketing or sales but failing to account for connections between those functions. It overcomplicates the experience for the user without achieving the utility that the technology promises. We call this a “complexity tax.”

A life-centric approach aims to eliminate complexity tax by designing for simple but significant interactions across a unified experience continuum. All customer-facing functions (including product, marketing, commerce, sales and service) must be connected across a single data and experience platform. The full scope of the customer experience needs to be thoughtfully considered in a way that understands and responds to their needs in real-time and draws actionable insights from those engagements.

Play #5 Build a fluid operation across functions

Some executives may wonder which plagued their business first: intractable processes or overly-rigid culture. Either way, the resulting inflexibility permeates everything the company does – and is hard to dislodge. It’s becoming more intractable: 88% of executives told us that their organisations became more risk-averse due to the pandemic.

Companies can combat this inertia and renew organisational energy by looking inward and reconfiguring operations for flexibility and fluidity. A life-centric approach is about better understanding the needs of people – not just customers but a company’s internal talent. Automation can streamline routine tasks to free up talented teams for more complex, human-centred work. Unifying workflow systems and platforms and incorporating agile organisational design can create the efficiencies needed to boost productivity and profitability. And breaking down silos can unleash the communication and creativity that drives innovation.

Putting the plays into action

In an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world, life-centricity offers an opportunity for businesses to unlock lasting advantages that deliver new growth and relevance – even in today’s unpredictable business environment.

There is no single path to life-centricity, but focusing investments and leadership attention on these plays can start companies on their way. Each helps strengthen customer connections and provides a new step toward meaningful, sustainable growth.