Three Ways Retailers Can Prepare for the 'Convenience Economy'
With 2016 in full swing, retailers are being challenged to keep up with the emergence of the “Convenience Economy,” in which today’s shopper increasingly has immediate access to the products and services they want, at the tap of a button.
Whether it’s skipping the payment process at the end of a cab ride by using Uber or pre-ordering your coffee via the Starbucks app, these types of services are driving a huge shift in consumer expectations for real-time, on-demand, convenient experiences.
For grocery retailers, these new shopper expectations lend themselves to many new types of customer experiences within two areas:
Convenient Shopping Process: Your shoppers want ways to immediately find products, whether online or in-store, and navigating through tens of thousands of items can be a challenge. Retailers can make this process much easier by narrowing the entire online product catalogue based on any combination of preferences including diet (organic, gluten-free, local, vegan, halal, etc), sale/price, nutritional score, whether or not the shopper had previously purchased an item and even customer ratings/reviews.
This type of online experience also helps customers shopping in-store, as they can use their mobile phone to quickly identify the top rated olive oil, for example, or find out which products they’ve previously purchased that are currently on sale or see all local organic products sold across the store.
Combining this with in-store aisle location will provide a rich, convenient, time-saving shopper experience that resonates with the convenience-driven shopper.
Instant Ordering: A convenient curbside or delivery experience is exactly what this new shopper is looking for, and what they’ll come to expect thanks to services like Starbucks Order Ahead. Retailers can make the ordering process really simple by creating an online experience that is organized, simple and intuitive, allowing their shoppers to re-order from their previous purchases, and communicating relevant product suggestions during the process. An ordering experience that can all be done in just a few taps or clicks will help your shoppers to save upwards of a couple of hours in their weekly routine.
Preparing to be Convenient
As the convenience economy becomes more widespread and more of your shoppers’ expectations adjust, how can you prepare?
We’ve outlined three areas to focus on first and foremost to set up a solid foundation that will allow you to adapt your offering to the Convenience Economy:
1) Create a Plan to Connect All of Your Systems
It’s imperative to get all of your disparate systems to talk to each other – from your loyalty systems to CRM to ecommerce to inventory management, and so on.
Why, you might ask?
In order to deliver an easy-to-use, unified user experience and value-added features, you will need to leverage and combine data across your different systems.
For example, to deliver a 1-to-1 personalized weekly ad, you need to develop systems that can connect ERP data (product info), loyalty/CRM data (user profile) and TLOG data (purchase history) to serve up a corresponding digital experience (web and mobile).
For the consumer, that means no longer sifting through all of your coupons and sales but instead being notified about sales that are connected to what they’ve bought in the past, creating the most convenient and easiest experience possible.
As another example, your online shoppers should be able to build their online orders based on their in-store purchases, simply by providing their loyalty identification number, which is only possible by connecting your ecom, CRM and TLOG systems.
These are but two of the many value-add features that your shoppers will expect as a result of the Convenience Economy, and thereby require the interconnection of your systems.
2) Invest in Your Data
Your shopper’s digital experience will only be as good as the data powering it. You need to ensure high-quality data for both your products and your shoppers.
For your products, you’ll need detailed data about your products -- i.e. customer friendly names, nutritional information, high-res photos, etc. -- as well as internal processes to cleanse and organize it. That way, your shoppers can easily and accurately search your online catalogue based on certain attributes like gluten-free or organic.
You can ensure high-quality product data by:
- Creating internal processes to cleanse historical data and ensure that as new products are added to the catalogue, all relevant information is captured
- Investing in low-cost, easy-to-implement tools to manage product data, like Hubba
- Investing in a scoring system for products, like Nuval or Shopwell, to use nutritional data to augment your catalogue even further
As for the needs of your shoppers, if you have a loyalty program, ensure your front-line staff is encouraging shoppers to use their card and/or provide their loyalty ID. The more you know about your shoppers, the better you’ll be able to serve them in the convenience economy.
3) Embrace a Culture of 'Shopper Experience'
For a retailer to succeed in the Convenience Economy, it’s not just about adding a digital component to your strategy. Instead, it’s about creating a culture internally that prioritizes the user experience.
The digital landscape evolves so quickly that you need to keep a constant pulse on your shoppers and how their expectations evolve. This is the only way to ensure that you’re evolving with them. You can do this by:
- Talking to your shoppers frequently
- Tracking customer purchases and behaviors on your digital experience, and constantly analyzing how those services are adopted and how well they perform
- Creating a culture of test and learn, whereby your team acts on the data at hand and tests new features and enhancements to your experience
- Aligning with a partner that is an expert in user experience
- Accepting that the perfect experience is a moving target, and requires constant investment of time and attention
This last bullet point is perhaps the most important one. Digital experiences can sometimes feel a little bit like the Wild West, as they’re constantly breaking new ground. And that will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future, which means that success in digital is a long journey. But with the right tools and team to rapidly and continuously innovate, you’ll be a trailblazer that will capture the attention and loyalty of the rapidly evolving shopper.