Miloš Pavlović

Who put salt in the lemonade?

It is necessary to empower young people to think critically and make assessments and decisions based on their analytics...

Miloš Pavlović

Senior Consultant

While traditional retailers are recovering from pandemic disruptions, a new threat looms – tech giants poised to take over their industry. The real story lies in the numbers; it's the tale of the future of retail in Europe. A market worth over 4200 billion euros, still growing at a two percent annual rate. Food and beverages constitute a third of this, while online channels claim 18 percent of total consumption. Do these statistics suggest that traditional retailers are ready for the impending era of digital transformation, or will they miss seizing the vast potential of the expanding market? Retail leaders stand at a crossroads – they must make bold decisions, redefine strategies, and find experts to navigate in this new age, as those who hesitate risk staying anchored in the harbor while the ships of the future set sail towards new horizons.

Examining the behavior and expectations of all stakeholders in the retail industry reveals drastic changes. Today's consumers approach shopping differently; brand loyalty has decreased, and expectations for service speed have significantly increased. Half of consumers now base their purchasing decisions on information and recommendations found on social media, blogs, or from influencers. To build stronger connections with the new generation of buyers, retail companies must redirect their capabilities, offering new experiences tailored to consumers now oriented towards sustainable and fast solutions. For example, major players like Amazon pioneered one-day delivery, setting new standards for speed and efficiency. Concurrently, brands like H&M are initiating clothing recycling initiatives, showcasing that ecological responsibility can be integrated directly into the business model. Suppliers are becoming clients of retailers. Retailers provide suppliers with access to customer data through partner platforms. For instance, Walmart created a specialized media network – Walmart Connect, where suppliers can target advertising to specific groups of Walmart customers. This helps suppliers better promote their products and brands to Walmart's customer base and generates additional revenue for Walmart, charging suppliers for this marketing service. Such partnerships benefit both sides and exemplify a shift from selling products to sharing value. Thus, retailers must develop a vision for their future ecosystem and relationships with all stakeholders. Being open to new collaborations and strategic partnerships is essential to enhance their ecosystem further.

With the help of generative artificial intelligence, it's possible to create marketing materials and improve customer support automatically.

We have had the opportunity to engage in diverse debates with friends or colleagues on various topics in different environments at least once. Depending on the mood and atmosphere, I have participated in discussions on current issues characterized as "serious" or, on the contrary, as "lemonade." Prompted by new facts or discussed issues thrown on the table in such situations, I often surf for additional details and facts related to the discussed topic the next day.
And so, going through the described process recently, I came across a topic where other people, from different perspectives, had arrived at entirely similar conclusions through analysis. Encouraged by this, I decided to give more significance to that topic and highlight and share some of the key findings in this way, beyond the coffee table.
The topic is "pseudo-enlightened crap," which I began to delve into after transitioning from university to the "world of ties and suits," starting my career in the consulting industry, fortunately. During this transition, many young people fall into the trap of self-initiated transformation of ideologies, some of which they cling to until later years. In contrast, others discard them if they realize it's a mistake.

During this period, ambition and motivation are among the key things that keep a young person fired up to get their dream job, a pursuit that can be prolonged. To maintain the continuity of such feelings, future leaders rely on various sources of "nourishment" in this process, such as motivational books or the wise minds of social media promoting multiple ideologies. Understandably, there are excellent books and intellectuals on the internet; however, many great minds use abstract statements in which they themselves believe or use them as manipulative tools for more likes and trendsetting.
For example, some statements seen on the internet, such as "The only obstacle is yourself" or "Believe in your dreams; they will surely come true," presented in such a context, mean nothing. This trend has gained momentum, where false statements and meaningless quotes linked to historical figures have become highly popular on Instagram or Facebook "stories," significantly worsening the situation through their influence.

Researchers from Cambridge, in their work titled "On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit," highlighted several research conclusions on the acceptance of nonsense (a tendency to evaluate meaningless statements as profound) and connected it to:

  • Low development of analytical thinking.
  • Wrong ideologies, conspiratorial thinking, and support for alternative medicine.
  • Ontological confusions (taking figurative statements literally).

This research, which also included the older generation, helped me structure five key factors that make young people a particularly vulnerable segment and, in my impression from the field, usually go in combination.

1. Underdeveloped cognitive abilities: Young individuals are still developing their mental capacities, including analytical and critical thinking. Therefore, they are more susceptible to accepting nonsense without detecting the real essence.
2. Lack of life experience: Young people still need more life experience to recognize meaningless claims and distinguish them from genuinely valuable insights because their value systems are still forming.
3. Peer influence: Young individuals are strongly influenced by their peers. If nonsense becomes popular in their group, there is a greater chance that they will accept it themselves.
4. Identity-seeking: Young people are still searching for their identity and are inclined to experiment with different beliefs and styles. This makes them more susceptible to "trying out" nonsense.
5. Technology and social media: Through technology and social media, young people are exposed to much information, including nonsense. They need help distinguishing what is valid and valuable.

But how can we empower young people to think critically and make assessments and decisions based on their analytics?
First and foremost, there must be analytics. Mentors of young people (primarily parents or the education system) must construct their influence to actively develop the intellectual autonomy of the young through nurturing analytical thinking, asking questions, and seeking evidence. Lessons in logic, media literacy, debate, and the application of the hypothesis formulation technique and finding facts to prove them when forming opinions and expressing themselves, are just some of the methods that can be implemented to develop critical thinking in young people. In this way, we can empower young people to become independent, informed individuals capable of assessing what is worth their time and attention and what is an empty story that should not be trusted. This is crucial for their personal and professional development in the 21st century and for this lemonade to no longer be salty.