Creating a frictionless consumer experience requires more than ease of payment at the point-of-sale. It requires using data, technology and other tactics to create a user experience that is different from the norm. Prepopulated billing information at online sites or tapping smartphones at POS terminals are two examples, but there are many more.
Technology driving frictionless, end-to-end convenience
Today’s frictionless experience requires end-to-end convenience for consumers throughout their customer journey. Assisted by technology, service itself has moved to the forefront in executing the kind of convenience consumers now expect. Not all, but many of the best examples of end-to-end convenience come from e-commerce companies leveraging technology that drives higher-quality service levels:
- The Dollar Shave Club (“Shave Time and Money”) delivers affordable razor blades on a monthly basis.
- Pandora (powered by the Music Genome Project®) learns users’ tastes based on their positive and negative feedback on music and then creates customized playlists.
- Stitch Fix (“Risk-Free Fashion”) sends a curated selection of clothes to consumers who can then keep what they like and send back the rest, all with no shipping charge or hassle.
Raising the bar on expectations
“Your last great experience will become the benchmark for future services.”- Denise Pickett, President of U.S. Consumer Products, American Express, speaking at Money 2020
The bar for meeting expectations continues to rise because consumer experiences with leading-edge companies have inflated their expectations for all companies. For example, the last time I ordered my specialized shaving cream, I placed the order at lunch and found it waiting for me when I arrived home. Now, I’ll be disappointed if it takes two days for me to receive my next order – on any product/service. My expectations are higher today than they were two weeks ago.
Consumers also expect retailers to have some understanding of what is relevant to them and deliver their offerings accordingly. “Carriage trade” services such as Tom James, a creator of bespoke suits and shirts purchased and fitted at one’s office or home, have become democratized through analytics. Brick-and-mortar retailers must now compete with such online retailers, as well as others like Stitch Fix, by applying analytics to help customize their products and services to reflect unique tastes and price points for their primary and secondary target audiences.
“Anticipatory retailing” is becoming commonplace among large retailers of consumables. Retailers analyze their shoppers’ purchasing patterns at the SKU level and have trained their loyalty program customers to expect customized coupons for goods they buy frequently.
Maintaining a strong human connection
Analytics and artificial intelligence may be driving today’s service levels but humanizing the customer journey is also critical for meeting consumer expectations. Technology must be accompanied by human expertise because, at some point, consumers will want or need to connect with a human to solve a problem. Although many staff fall short of delivering high-quality service, companies with qualified problem solvers can gain a competitive advantage in this era of inflated expectations.
Keeping pace with rising expectations
Today’s consumers are in control of how, when and where they want to interact with companies. Their expectations are rising at an unprecedented pace. Delivering on these expectations will require:
- Letting the consumer take the lead in defining what they want
- Employing analytics, user and marketing research, and models to anticipate consumer needs and behaviors
- Allowing consumers to dictate their choice of channel for both purchase and customer service interactions
- Preparing to interact with consumers via new channels, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home
- Delivering high-quality human experiences seamlessly with technology-driven ones