Next year will finally see the customer experience overtake price as a retail brand’s biggest differentiator.
Companies are no longer furiously competing on price, but rather on the experiences they offer their customers. After all, people no longer measure their experiences against specific industries and sectors – they compare it to the best experience they’ve ever had, regardless of which brand was responsible.
In fact, according to our 2020 Digital Trends, optimising the customer experience is the single most exciting opportunity facing brands next year. And what sits at the heart of a first-class experience, especially for retail customers? Convenience.
Convenience is the new loyalty
Online shopping has changed exponentially over the past decade. A decade ago, our Digital Trends report posed questions around the validity of social media as a sales channel, and whether consumers would ever shop using their mobile ‘phones.
People quickly realised the future of shopping lay online, and the convenience it offered customers. In fact, I believe that our hunt for convenience is the reason that online shopping now exists in its current form. And convenience will continue to dictate how ecommerce evolves for years to come. Price is no longer the clincher.
For example, Amazon, quite often, is not the cheapest place for online shopping. But customers know they can order an item and receive it the next day, perhaps even that evening.
Another example is ASOS, which fully recognises that customers may order the same item in three sizes and return all three. Of more importance to ASOS is the loyalty of their customer. The online retail brand as recently tightened its returns policy, but it knows people are more likely to shop with ASOS if they can return their items, if needed, with ease.
For Amazon, ASOS, and thousands of other companies, convenience has created a hundreds of millions of loyal customers across the world.
Breaking the mobile mould
Paul Smith is another fine example of a company that’s elected to focus on long-term business innovation by making their service more convenient. Realising that great content equals great experiences, the brand is carving out a more sustainable and resilient path to success, rather than relying on price.
Fashion is a notoriously fast-paced industry, dominated by fleeting trends and the latest technology. In that context achieving competitive advantage is tough.
To that end, the Paul Smith identified mobile as a way to differentiate itself. It’s the ultimate form of convenience. Mobile traffic significantly outpaces desktop. People want to shop on their device of choice, and for the majority, this is mobile. But, as every retailer knows, bounce rates and basket abandonments are, frustratingly, much higher on mobile when compared to desktop.
This is due, in large part, to the fact that the mobile shopping is still a relatively clunky and frustrating experience. Not so for Paul Smith.
Magento Commerce 2 helped Paul Smith improve their mobile experience, with clearer listing pages, accessible links, and streamlined menus. The team implemented the default Magento checkout to ensure existing third-party extensions worked seamlessly, and used PayPal Express Checkout to increase conversions. They also enjoyed minimised cart abandonment on mobile and desktop alike.
As a result, mobile sales have been skyrocketing in 2019. Retail brands that are able to crack commerce on mobile, like Paul Smith, are going to thrive in 2020.
Has retail lost its head?
Well, no – at least not in that sense. I’m talking about headless commerce, which has been steadily gathering hype over the past year.
In a nutshell, headless commerce completely separates a companies’ CMS from its front-end delivery layer. From a brand experience perspective, it opens up a wealth of opportunities to explore new channels and will, quite literally, propel your content anywhere and everywhere.
Brands can engage with and sell to customers using channels like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, without having to re-build their own platform. They can sell seamlessly over channels like Instagram and Pinterest. If someone is able to purchase a product without leaving the platform they discovered it on (even if that platform isn’t affiliated with the product) – well, that is the ultimate form of convenience.
Put simply, with headless commerce, every experience becomes a shoppable experience.
Despite all this, it’s important to remember that technology and digital experiences don’t necessarily eliminate consumer choice. After all, convenience also means people can switch to another brand at the click of a button or swipe of the screen.
If brands are able to focus on creating convenience that spans across an entire customer’s experience, they’re well on their way to inspiring loyalty. And loyalty that lasts.