Technological progress has made possible important improvements in convenience for consumers, and some of the most successful companies have put convenience at the very core of their model. The most obvious examples are platforms like Alibaba or Amazon. On top of offering the advantage of gathering every imaginable product under the same roof, Amazon offers features like 1-Click payment, auto-replenishment via Dash buttons, recommendations, reviews, two-hour deliveryand more.
This convenience-first strategy is not the exclusive territory of tech giants, however, and small innovative brands are growing rapidly by making the most of the new, technology- shaped consumer expectations. Dollar Shave Club has mastered auto-replenishment by building a direct-to-consumer subscription servicefor razors and other personal care products. Instacart offers one-hour delivery across a large array of retailers and makes it simple to find a local store, explore savings, pay seamlessly, and track an order within its mobile application.[i]
Convenience pays off. According to Forrester, consumers are now 15% more inclined to trust Amazon to treat them like a valued customer than Apple.[ii] Convenience is not only a powerful purchase vector - Amazon Prime members spend 30% more than non-Prime members[iii] - but consumers are also willing to pay a premium for convenience – 88% of consumers are ready to pay for same-day or faster delivery.[iv]
These and other companies’ successes with increased convenience have a far-reaching halo effect. Sixty-four per cent of consumers declare their standards for good experiences are higher than ever and 53% say most companies fall short of their expectations for great experience.[v] This increases the pressure on legacy brands, who need to ensure their own experiences make things easy for consumers, demonstrating they care about their limited time and attention. We have arrived at a conundrum between convenience and the power of brands.
According to the iProspect 2018 Global Client Survey, marketers are divided about the respective importance of brands and convenience but tend to favour the latter: 58% think building a highly convenient consumer experience is the most powerful lever to generate business growth, vs. 41% who think growth is based more on building a strong, recognisable brand. Looking forward, only 17% believe brands will dominate over convenience[vi].
Several factors can explain why consumers sometimes push convenience into the background when they shop. It could be because of deep personal motives, for instance, if a brand better aligns with the consumer’s humanitarian or environmental beliefs. What started with millennials, but has now become more mainstream, is the significant increase in expecting a “moral compass” to come from brands, as human rights efforts and political views have pushed that consumer focus into the limelight.
For some goods, consumers may take pleasure in obtaining something that is “hard to get”. Think about a large discount on an electronic, the perfect wedding dress, or a luxury good. Adidas is known to have organised scarcity for the Stan Smith model by pulling it out of stock in 2011, only to reintroduce it with a massive impact three years later.[vii]
Peer effect can be at play, too. A personal recommendation or a strong relationship with a customer advisor can drive someone to select a less convenient option.
The role of convenience in the purchase decision may vary according to the category wherein the buyer mentally puts he product, chore or cherished.[viii]
Chore: A chore purchase can be one for which the consumer is indifferent or daunted, a standard repeat purchase, something that takes a lot of research, decision making or negative emotions. At a minimum, brands need to ensure they offer convenient buying options to make the consumer happier (e.g., through seamless auto- refills).
Cherished: A cherished product is one the consumer considers special, like a luxury item, a vacation, or a unique gift. Consumers are much more likely to overlook and forgive some inconveniences.
The challenging part for brands is realising what is deemed a chore at the individual level. Buying an item might be a joy for some consumers but a complete drag for others. Clothing shopping, for example, can be a tremendous chore for some men and women, but an activity others love. So even though the same product or brand is being sold, consumers go in with widely different attitudes. This means brands need to offer as many conveniences as they possibly can, while trying to turn chore purchases into cherished ones. Some ways brands can do this is through making the product feel more special, giving powerful benefits alongside the purchase, collaborating with known cherished categories, etc.
Brands need to find the right balance between emotion and utility. Certain brands have prioritised creating an emotional connection with consumers through their brand. The “give back” mentality of Toms or the transparency of Everlane have created loyalty amongst their core consumers who want to feel good about what they are purchasing. Other brands focus on a utilitarian approach to satisfy the consumers who want answers and speed. Brands like Walmart are by all means thriving and delivering a certain type of experience that is craved by many.
Convenience obviously fits a utilitarian approach, but there is also a positive emotion caused by a convenient purchase, which leads us to believe convenience itself is somewhere in the middle of the two approaches. The future formula for success stands where emotion creates long lasting brand loyalty, and ration satisfies consumers’ lengthy expectations. Some brands have started to figure out this marriage. We can mention Nordstrom’s amazing customer service and experiential elements, Sephora’s leveraged technology and AI in ways that delight customers while making product selection easier at the same time, or Warby Parker’s in-store experience designed for removing customer pain points.
As the rise of convenience now intersects with the more traditional power of the brand, those companies that have focused on branding, product and in-store experience must now invest in increasing the convenience of their proposition through their digital properties, media assets, and presence on third party reseller platforms.
This article is excerpted from Future Focus 2019: Searching for Trust. Download Future Focus 2019 for key insights and success stories on navigating truth and authenticity in 2019.
[vi]iProspect 2018 Global Client Survey, October 2018