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How to foresee shocks, surprises, and pandemics?

It’s mid-January 2020: You are heavily concerned about the Australian wildfires. Your neighbor tells you he bought Zoom stocks and ordered one million facemasks. Be honest; his behavior would have appeared disturbing. But knowing how fundamental the corona crisis changed our lives, your neighbor would most likely have become a millionaire. Looking back, all that we “should have done” is easy to detect. But how can we decide what we “should do” now? Overall, humans struggle to think exponentially and anticipate disruptive changes. In the past months we had the opportunity to curate a Special Issue on the topic of customer foresight with the Marketing Review St Gallen. In the following we will present you a few teasers for the articles in the issue.By Birte Karoline Manke


What to expect in the Special Issue on “Customer Foresight”?
Eller and Schwartz und Hoffmann explore how customer research and foresight research merged with the field of customer foresight research and what it means to do customer-centric foresight research. They propose an insightful customer foresight framework that mirrors the interplay of the different research areas and the key characteristics of customer foresight research. Finally, they offer a guide through the customer foresight research process by presenting a model for the customer foresight research journey.

How to acquire information under uncertainty? What are foresight methods out there? When to use which methods? If you are interested in a general overview and introduction to various approaches to customer foresight, we recommend reading the contribution by Ivancic and Ott. In a conceptual paper, they present foresight methods that generate different types of data. They shortly give an overview of some best practices that could inspire your foresight process.

One of the critical challenges identified in the previous contribution is finding the right informants that may have an inclination and sense of fundamental changes. Hoffmann and Lüken both discuss in theirarticlesthe target group of “trend receivers” as valuable sources of information. If you want to learn more about the concept, it’s benefits and limits,and how it can beapplied, feel free to read about it in their articles.

What can I do with future scenarios, and why would I use them? How do I create a future scenario? What are the steps to take in the process of building a scenario? If you would like some insights on these questions, feel free to read about the customer foresight method used at the SIX group in the article written by Manke, Lehmann and Katz. The financial service provider formed the Business Unit Innovation & Digital recently, and one of their approaches was to develop and implement a scenario-based foresight process. After a few iterations, they share best practices and learnings from their process in this article.

Is it time to rethink who we involve in customer foresight? How does customer foresight work for B2B companies? How are markets created? If you are interested in some of these questions you may like reading the lead interview for the special Issue with Dieter Goerdten, Head of Products and Solutions in the SIX business unit Banking Services (BBS), who was a driving force behind, and expert in, the development process of the scenario “Pictures of the Future – Future of Money”.

What we learned from collecting diverse articles on methods in the field of customer foresight?
We find that overall there is not a single, ideal method that will meet all the needs. But the special issue may be a good starting point to reflect on potentially interesting directions and a good guidance to try out some of these methods. Feel free to contact the authors if you have questions or thoughts. Overall there are some joint learnings from gathering such diverse methods in one issue:

1. Dare to involve your customers
For a long period, the value of customers has been underestimated in market research overall. As Henry Ford once allegedly complained that if he would have asked his customers about their needs, they would have responded “faster horses”. He considered his customers unable to contribute to innovation or foreseeing the future. But several of the presented methodologies are involving customers (or special type of customers) in foresight processes, which shows that they just need to be involved in the right way to prove highly valuable.

2. Gather high quality data
All empirical methodology follows one basic principle: “Garbage in – Garbage out”. The data set is key to the quality of the insights. This holds also true for all empirical approaches in customer foresight. Several of the methods presented in the issue rely on generating knowledge through involving carefully selected informants, may it be the scenario approach from the SIX Practice case or for example the concept of trend receivers presented. Nevertheless, it is not only about selecting and questioning a few future thinkers but also bringing different perspectives together. SIX’s scenario method presented in the paper by Manke, Lehmann and Katz, proposes to combine diverging perspectives into future scenarios, which could also open up the space for potential discussions. In the lead interview of the issue with Dieter Goerten, Head of Products and Solutions in the SIX business unit Banking Services (BBS), emphazises also the great importance for discussion. Often foresight knowledge is kept behind doors, but how about opening up the discussions with all stakeholders involved about how we want to life in 10, 20 or 30 years?


Titles of the special issue:

Eller, E., Hofmann, R., Schwarz,J. O. (2020). The Customer Foresight Territory, in: Marketing Review St. Gallen, pp. 12-19.

Manke, B. K., Lehmann, T., Katz. M. (2020). Applied Strategic Foresight – Learnings from Trend Transfer at SIX,in: Marketing Review St. Gallen, pp. 48-55.

Ivancic, R. & Ott, S. (2020). Machine Economicus – Business Forecast 4.0 – Methods to Predict Short-, Medium- and Long-term Futures, in: Marketing Review St. Gallen, pp. 20-31.

Hofmann, R. (2020). Customer Foresight Practice – How to Access Future Markets Through Extraordinary People, in: Marketing Review St. Gallen, pp. 38-47.

Lüken, J.-D. (2020). Looking for Prophets? The Trend Receiver Approach, in: Marketing Review St. Gallen, pp. 32-37.

Goerdten, D. (2020). Interview with J. Gollnhofer & B. Manke: Lessons From Market Making – Customer Foresight in the B2B Sector and What We Can Learn From It, in: Marketing Review St. Gallen, pp. 06-11.


More information:

Get an your own abonnement of the Marketing Review St Gallen here:

Buy this special issue here:

Contact: Birte Karoline Manke;

Image Source: Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash