The inclusivity paradox

Audio - 00:00

People expect organizations to see and engage with them as individuals.

But there is a risk that by trying to be more inclusive, organizations inadvertently exclude others. And by trying to speak to the individual, organizations risk saying something not quite right.

Eventually, artificial intelligence (AI) will help overcome this paradox of inclusivity. Until then, organizations must evolve their approach beyond stale segmentation to meaningful mindsets if they’re to meet developing expectations.

Key sectors:

  • Communications & Technology
  • Banking & Insurance
  • Health & Public service
  • Travel
  • Automotive & industrial
  • Life sciences
  • Retail & consumer goods
The House of Lords has asked the polling industry to “get its act together”.
The House of Lords has asked the polling industry to “get its act together”.

What’s going on?

In 2018, digital technologies have given many underrepresented voices previously ignored by mainstream media the tools to unite and be heard through grassroots activity, opening the door for organizations wanting to connect with them.

But while we can now quantify the voices of those who have chosen to rally on city streets, red carpets and around hashtags, how do we quantify those still hiding in the shadows of uncollected data?

Those who speak out can be quantified, but what about the silent among uncollected data?
Those who speak out can be quantified, but what about the silent among uncollected data?

For many years, we defined consumption patterns by traditional demographic segments like age, gender, location, income or family status. Now, we’re in a world of “post-demographic consumerism,” where we place more importance on lifestyles and mindsets, and brands are under pressure to reinvent themselves to maintain their appeal.

To appeal to more Muslim women, some fashion companies need to better understand that Muslim women are not one homogeneous group.
To appeal to more Muslim women, some fashion companies need to better understand that Muslim women are not one homogeneous group.
Not everyone fits into obsolete demographics and behavior types.
Not everyone fits into obsolete demographics and behavior types.

Yet too many organizations still shape the design and development of mass-scale products and services based on quantitative insights (and the assumptions they produce). And while numbers may not lie, they don’t always tell the full story because they’re blind to human behaviors in context.

Inclusivity is both an opportunity and challenge for a diverse range of organizations, from national governments to startups. Hotels.com is among brand owners using tech firm Persado’s artificial intelligence platform to fine-tune the emotional components of the marketing language it uses to tailor what it says and how it says it to different customers. But many organizations feel overwhelmed by the task of mounting a response.

One day, AI will be able to deliver true personalization using individuals’ detailed data and ultimately solve the inclusivity paradox. But until then, tomorrow’s winners will be those who don’t settle for traditional demographics but take the time to understand individual mindsets, their value in the present, and how – over time and in different contexts – they can shift and grow.

Ben Blake, Vice President of Global Customer & Business Development at Hotels.com, explains how Persado helped engage their customers with AI-generated copy - Persado, YouTube.

What's next?

A major challenge in the year ahead will be working out how best to design to be inclusive at a mass scale not just for the underrepresented groups speaking out, but for others who haven’t yet raised their voices. It’s one thing to hear diverse voices and another to design products and services that include them.

As consumers increasingly crave products and services that feel tailored to their wants and needs, they will become less tolerant of those that only partly fulfil their needs and don’t solve an issue.

More organizations will realize that statistical modelling has limitations and will switch to models that actively help them to achieve inclusivity. We’ll see new frameworks emerging, blending big data (quantitative), thick data (qualitative) and wide data (liquid expectations, trends, contextual insights and industry insights).

Increasingly, defining mindsets that indicate individuals’ behaviors and attitudes will be essential for designing personalized products and services, with design research playing an increasingly powerful role. In their recent “The Future of Mobility” study, Fjord and Volkswagen highlighted exactly why mindsets now outstrip demographics for understanding and catering to complex human needs.

Large tech companies will start to produce tools to simplify hyper-personalization. Organizations will also evolve simpler, more effective targeting for communications until such time as technologies' editorial powers become so sophisticated that they can generate fully personalized content.

Organizations must aim for inclusive design that ensures meaningful interactions for all customers that bring tangible long-term value, both to users and to the organization’s bottom line.

Evidence update

What you should do

01

Marry quant and qual

When designing services, carefully mix human insights with data to breathe more color into facts that are often black and white. Learn the differences between qualitative insights and quantitative statistics at scale and how each can make the other more powerful.

02

Focus on mindsets over segmentation

Move away from traditional marketing approaches that treat people as a homogenized group according to their demographics. Instead, focus on the mindsets that group people together based on their motivations, attitudes and behaviors.

03

Become a Living Business

Living Services are personalized services that adapt to user needs in real-time context. To be able to deliver them, you need to rewire your business by putting humans at the center and strive for ultimate customer relevance – you need to become a Living Business.