This futurist is ‘also a bit of a traditionalist’

Customers won’t buy into a digital solution unless they can spot the empathetic value behind it, says Anders Sorman-Nilsson.

This futurist is ‘also a bit of a traditionalist’

by Ernan Roman

Posted on 11-07-2018

This article is part of our series about 2019 trends, predictions, and new opportunities. Click here for more.

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is a global futurist and innovation strategist who founded think tank Thinque. He serves as managing director, working with top brands across the United States and Australia. Sorman-Nilsson also is an author and active member of TEDGlobal, has keynoted at TEDx in the United States and Australia, and was the keynote speaker at the G20’s Y20 Summit in Australia, among other accomplishments.

During a recent conversation with Sorman-Nilsson, I was impressed by his views about human-centric empathy. I asked him to share his thoughts for this edition of “4 Questions for Digital Innovators.

1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?

Sorman-Nilsson: Human-centric empathy. As a futurist, I am also a bit of a traditionalist. Today, marketers oftentimes focus on the shiny, digital penny of CX, predictive lead scoring, or conversational commerce but sometimes forget about the analog value of deeply empathizing with your clients.

Solving client frustration is an act of empathy, and redesigning customer journeys according to the human-centric needs of your clients’ digital minds and analog hearts is imperative.

2. Why is this so important?

Sorman-Nilsson: Without empathy, there can be no true customer connect. Customers see through brands’ piecemeal additions of new channels if they cannot spot the foundational empathy behind them. Unless brands are able to clearly communicate their empathetic value and how their new digital solution will augment or transform our lives, customers just won’t buy into what they perceive as a digital incursion.

3. How will this improve the customer experience?

Customer frustrations are always fertile grounds for innovation. Statistics show that in 2018, only 2% of Americans who have Alexa installed have conversationally asked her to complete a purchase, and of those early adopters 90% have never done it again. This illustrates that neither the digital device nor the customer experience is so transformational or seamless that customers are willing to discard old shopping methods.

For example, if you or I were to examine which problem-solving or data-centric apps we most use on our smartphones, the likelihood is we have adopted them because they empathetically solved a big frustration. For me, Slack, Uber, Pzizz (power naps), and Tripit (to manage 240 travel days a year) all have transformed how I interface between the physical, analog world and the digital. Now, ask yourself which apps or trackers you have discarded, and the likelihood is the discarded devices or UIs neither solved a problem empathetically nor were beautiful to engage with.

4. How will this notion improve the effectiveness of marketing?

As marketers, we have to strike the right balance between the artful and the emotional, and the scientific and the technological. As a futurist, I believe in the power of questions to drive concrete outcomes. To help you think about the questions you should ask yourself and your organization, here are four questions asked by the most innovative brands:

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Topics: CMO by Adobe, Insights & Inspiration, Experience Cloud, Digital Transformation, Trends & Research, Marketing