A.T. Kearney

Why customers demand authenticity

According to a big, international study, the customer of tomorrow wants personalization and trust. Find out more about the study’s background, the challenges your corporate communication faces and how you can encounter them.

In a big, future-oriented study, the consulting firm A.T. Kearney asked more than 7.000 “future” customers in the US, France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, India and China about their preferences and consumer behavior. They interviewed young people who are now teenagers (the so called “generation z”). The results depict what the customer of tomorrow is interested in, and show that big players should pay much more attention to the factor of trust within their corporate communication.

Fundamental market changes until 2027

Next to changes in values and the demographic change, the study identified “hyper connectivity” as a major driver of the future consumer world. This driver especially concerns the so called “generation z”, which marks people born between 1998 and 2016. The group attaches high importance to respect, social entrepreneurship and personal responsibility and will probably make up one third of the world’s population in 2027.


Their buying behavior is characterized by social justice and climate protection, but also individualism. Moreover the “generation z” calls digital platforms their homes and is “hyper connected”: In 2016 2.8 billion people where connected via social networks. Of all interviewees, 44 percent are active members of social networks with the number being even higher for China and India.

The three principles of consumer patterns

From the results of the study one can deduce three central principles for future consumer patterns: Trust, digital influence and personalization.


Trust is the basis for good and sustainable business relationships and strongly relies on authenticity. Especially for big companies and brands it is getting harder to earn customers’ trust and to constantly communicate a genuine brand message.

Five years ago, 30-40 percent of respondents had little or no trust in big players. Now the number has grown up to 50-60 percent. Climate protection and social engagement is particularly important for young customers and more than 70 percent are willing to pay a markup to promote the company’s commitment.


Digital control exerted by influencers is the second principle. This principle aims at the power of individual voices who can influence whole markets. Today it already becomes apparent that companies and brands can strengthen their position in the long term by means of authentic influencers. 54 percent of all interviewees from generation z stated that their buying decisions are influenced by bloggers and vloggers.


Personalization of purchase experiences is the third success factor of the future. By using big data and innovative technologies such as beacons, it becomes possible to communicate tailored, personalized offerings to the customer, what enhances the purchase experience enormously. Worldwide 30-45 percent of all respondents are willing to hand out private data to companies, as long as they get f.e. personalized offerings such as nutrition recommendations or discounts for products they are interested in.

Quality wins

Dr. Mirko Warschun, CEO at A.T. Kearney. Source: A.T. Kearney.
Dr. Mirko Warschun, CEO at A.T. Kearney. Source: A.T. Kearney.

“Currently we are experiencing a worldwide shift from the affluence- to an influence-modell“, Dr. Mirko Warschun, expert for merchandise and consumer goods at A.T. Kearney, concludes the change in the consumer area.


In the “old world” customers defined themselves in terms of property and could be satisfied with static business models and marketing strategies, which followed the big trends.

The influence-modell is much more complex and is based on many individual influencers, who immediately understand customers’ signals and know how to implement them.


Finally quality is the decisive factor, which creates, maintains and recreates trust – an old principle that has proven to be successful. Combined with a genuine brand message and a personalized purchase experience, quality will also characterize future consumer behavior.


For companies it is thus inevitable to ensure that different divisions address their target groups accordingly. Whether being marketer or sales-person – everyone in your company should know the customers’ needs and how to address them.

More information about A.T. Kearney: www.atkearney.de.

This article is partially based on a press release of A.T. Kearney

Source title image: iStock / FatCamera