What Makes a ‘Living Business’? Staying Relevant and Remaining Flexible

Companies risk missing out on $1 trillion in revenue if they aren't

65% of the times consumers switched brands, it was to pursue more relevant offerings, new Accenture research shows. Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

Consumers are fickler than ever, and U.S. businesses that can’t adjust are at risk of missing out on a serious amount of revenue, according to new research released today from consulting and business services firm Accenture.

Becoming irrelevant is a surefire way to lose consumers and revenue opportunities, according to the study, which was released at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. One in four consumers said they would stop doing business with a company entirely if it was no longer relevant to them, and nearly 65 percent of the times consumers switched brands, it was to pursue more relevant offerings.

All in all, U.S. companies whose messaging does not remain relevant to their consumers risk losing $1 trillion in revenue, the study found.

On the flip side, increased relevance can pay dividends. Customers were 70 percent more likely to recommend companies perceived as being relevant to friends and family, according to the study.

The study, part of Accenture’s Living Businesses report, aimed to identify common characteristics among companies that are the most successful. For the study, Accenture surveyed 23,000 consumers across 33 countries and surveyed more than 1,000 top executives from companies in 28 different countries. The companies included in the study reported how capable they were at being and remaining hyper-relevant to customers, and the self-reported performance data was then cross-referenced with publicly available financial data.

Accenture, which provides a range of professional services, offers companies tools and consultations to help them grow and adapt, and it will use this sort of research to market its services to companies.

The results showed that the companies most successful in remaining relevant exhibited flexibility in their approach, their products and in their business structure, said Mark Curtis, the chief client officer of Accenture Interactive’s design and innovation firm, Fjord.

“There is a really clear correlation between organizations which are trying to behave in a way that values flexibility and business results,” Curtis told Adweek.

The study broke down the characteristics of successful companies into five categories. Companies that scored best were the most proficient at targeting the right sustainable growth initiatives, designing products and services that were reflective of the company’s purpose, building engagement channels to gather live feedback and enhance customer experiences, scaling their business smartly, and rewiring their companies to better address their goals.

Those that Accenture identified as “high-vitality” companies were 50 percent more likely than other companies to be well prepared for disruption in the industry, according to the study. They were also three times more likely to reach above-average profit growth and revenue growth compared with “low-vitality” companies. Some of the companies Accenture identified as model Living Businesses included Nike, GE and Toyota.

The companies best positioned to weather a changing industry are those that are always ready to adapt—or remain in beta mode, as Curtis put it.

“It’s easy to talk about this stuff, to talk about having a flexible mindset,” Curtis said, “but according to this research, there’s a pretty good business reason to do it. … That flexibility mindset does seem to correlate with better returns for shareholders.”

@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.