Price is Nice, but Customer Experience and Convenience Will Become Retail’s Biggest Differentiator in 2020

by Peter Bell

Posted on 12-13-2019

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.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Customer Experience, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA