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We understand. For the last six months you’ve been inundated with trends for 2015 and all the big changes at your doorstep: more smartphones and smart watches, the Internet of Things, a recovering U.S. economy, a slowing Chinese economy, and economic stagnation pretty much everywhere else. Changing demographics. Millennials. You’ve heard it all.

But what you haven’t heard is how consumers are being affected by all of this, and what it means for your business. The consumer trends outlined below are not just trends. They are real opportunities for credit unions to improve their bottom lines, and establish deeper loyalties with their members.

1. Betterment – The Human Desire for Constant Improvement 

Self-improvement is a deep-rooted desire in human nature. Even more important, it’s a fundamental driver of behavior inside the modern consumer arena, where people strive to present an interesting and aspirational image to the world. Once people transcend the bottom Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid, they care less about what they have and more about who they are and who they want to be.

This perpetuates an industry based on self-enhancement, encompassing all facets of life: education, health, financial health, relationships, skills, knowledge, spirituality, ethics – the list is endless.

The challenge

We are humans! We have the burning desire to improve but we have conflicting desires to sleep, be passive, procrastinate and lazy. What can businesses do to motivate people to act in their own best interest?

The solution

Fuse technology with a deep exploration and understanding of human behavior to resolve the tension between the desire to be better and human nature by offering rewarding experiences that help people become who they want to be.

Rewards can be monetary but the most successful companies use more aspirational and satisfying rewards: Fitbit asks their users to burn calories in order to give calories, resulting in 15 million meals for people in need. Uruguay’s Mamut lets customer buy shoes with used plastic bottles. Insurance companies are starting to partner with fitness trackers to offer savings in exchange for being healthier.

2. Ubitech – The Pervasiveness of Technology 

The world is moving rapidly towards ubiquitous connectivity that will further change how and where people associate, gather and share information, and consume media. Consumers continue to crave – and create their lives around – the amazing powers technology offers to them: immediacy, convenience and unlimited choices.

Experts foresee an ambient information environment where accessing the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily that it will flow through their lives like electricity and water. They predict mobile, wearable, and embedded computing will be tied together in the Internet of Things, allowing people and their surroundings to tap into artificial intelligence-enhanced cloud-based information storage and sharing.

The most useful impact is the ability to connect people

At the center of everything is the ability to connect people. And every digital-fueled connection needs to be based on empathetic thinking. How can credit unions use technology to create perceived value? How can credit unions tap technology to improve the wellbeing of their members? How can credit unions create connected ecosystems of personalized services for enhanced relationships?

3. Helpfull – The Age of Increased Member Expectations

Over the past 15 years customer expectations have increased by about 24 percent in almost all categories. Consumers aren’t always able to rationally articulate their needs, desires, or real expectations in the financial services category. But they know they want products and services that make their lives more convenient, simpler, easier and/or seamless. Credit unions need to deliver on that promise or consumers will move on quickly to competitors that exceed their expectations.

Members expect extraordinary, over-the top experiences that rock their world. Nothing less will do.

Gone are the days when feedback was kept quiet and experiences were collected around a review form. Today, your members’ comments are transparent to your competitors, making it easier for them to publicly see your pain points. Comparisons are easier to make and product switching happens faster than ever.

Members are ready to switch unless they have one thing: an undying relationship with a person or people who made them feel uniquely special. So then the question becomes, how do you scale personalization to enhance these human relationships? How do you utilize corporate culture to be a change leader? How do you create consistency and authenticity between product strategy and operational delivery – all in an environment of collaboration?

4. Local Love – Community Was Never More Important 

We are all global citizens now. We all have embraced the digital age. Still, local community has never been more important.

We see local products and services everywhere: supermarkets, restaurants, fashion, craft beer. What drives local love? Everything from pride in local community to convenience and fear of globalization. Ultimately, consumers have a sense that supporting their local communities ultimately makes those communities better places to live. As long as that belief holds true, consumers will continue to embrace local products, services and knowledge.

The idea of local love is a grassroots movement, driven by small community groups or even individuals.

Credit unions have always been rooted in local communities, and they generally have a strong understanding of community needs. Consumers are looking to trusted, local brands to solve community problems directly and in partnership with local government or groups. In fact, 61 percent of consumers would like their favorite companies to play a bigger role in their local community.