Retail & Technology: Ease & Experience
By: Matt Phillip, Strategy and Effectiveness Director, Manning Gottlieb OMD
How we buy things is becoming more polarised: on one hand, you have demand for shopping to be as easy, as effortless, as frictionless as possible. On the other hand, customers desire an experience that is as memorable and as enjoyable as possible. This is nothing new – we’ve always been delighted by buying things one day and the next, want to get in and out of a store as fast as possible. But technology is both shaping, and sharpening, this dichotomy and as progressive communications planners, we have to adapt.
We need to make buying as easy as possible. Byron Sharp, Author of “How Brands Grow” and Professor of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia, thinks so – in fact, he boils the entire job of marketing down to just that. This might be due to the fact that our brains are hardwired to take the easy route, as Nobel-winning behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman describes: “Humans are to thinking, as cats are to swimming,” he says, “We can do it when we have to, but we’d much prefer not to”.
Amazon knows the cost of friction. They’ve calculated that a page load delay of just one second would cost $1.6 billion in sales a year. This learning has been taken to the very heart of the business. From a Dash button on your washing machine, through voice purchasing on Echo to Amazon Go, to their bricks’n’mortar store concept with no checkouts and no queues – every investment made helps customers buy quicker and easier. If you listen to commentators such as Scott Galloway, Founder, L2; Clinical Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern, this could be a big threat for your brand – why will consumers want to think about choosing your brand when Alexa can do it for them?
Ease can also speak volumes about a brand. Look at Domino’s, who geared its entire turnaround on making it as easy as possible to order a pizza. In the past, you had to find the number, dial, wait, order, order louder, and cross your fingers in hopes they got the right address. You can now order on every platform imaginable – from text, to voice, to Echo, to a connected car. Even with an emoji! You don’t even need to click – simply open the app and you can now automatically order your favourite pizza.
Of course, examples like these are absolutely changing what consumers expect from brands. Uber, an OMD client, calculated that when the service launches in a city, expectations on how long travellers are prepared to wait for a cab drops by a third.
So brands can’t sit still. They have to ask themselves: how can I make this as easy as possible to buy? Where is the friction in the purchase? How can technology help remove it?
But ease is just one side of the retail coin. In a world of one-hour drone deliveries, sometimes people still want to go shopping.
John Lewis, a long-standing Manning Gottlieb OMD client and Britain’s best-loved retailer, knows this. We plan according to four shopper “missions” and the easiest to observe in-store is “entertain and inspire me”. In this mind-set we seek to surprise and delight customers throughout the purchase journey, adding unique touches and creating memorable moments.
Communications provide a key aperture to enhance this experience…Meet Monty. A few years ago he starred in John Lewis’ Christmas ad, telling the story of a young boy who dreams about his toy penguin coming to life. We were inspired to make this happen for real in John Lewis stores. We created “Monty’s Magical Toy Machine”, which took a 3-D scan of a child’s most loved toy and brought it to life digitally, allowing the delighted child to dance and play with it.
But retail experiences don’t just live at point of purchase – take Lego for example. Knowing that sharing the wacky and wonderful things you create is half the fun, it created Lego Life, a social network designed specifically for kids under 13, allowing them to delight in sharing their real-world Lego creations in a safe environment online.
So, make it as easy as possible to buy, but don’t forget consumers love of unique experiences. When are customers looking to be entertained? How can you create magical moments of surprise and delight in the purchase process? Balancing ease and experience may just be the key to success…