The retail war of convenience

Gartner reports that by 2017, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator. Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to save time and money, so using technology to streamline the shopping, ordering, or delivery process is welcomed. Brands, both old and new, are finding ways to make the purchase process as easy as possible. There will always be a time and place when consumers want to go out shopping, have an experience, and touch or try out a product before they buy. But, other times they just want to skip straight to getting what they want.

Retailers, especially large footprint stores, are offering ‘buy online, pick up in store’ services (IKEA, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Office Depot, Walmart, etc.). Target and CVS offer curbside pickup through an aptly named app called Curbside. These solutions save time when consumers don’t want to wander around the store and search for what they need.

We also see examples of brands taking goods and services straight to consumers in categories you might previously have thought impossible — topping off the gas tank, setting up a new smartphone, or buying laundry detergent:   

  • Link promises that you can “skip the gas station forever” by delivering gas to your car anytime, anywhere (well, anywhere in Silicon Valley so far).
  • For the busy or tech-phobic, Link will deliver your new smartphone along with a Sprint expert to set up the device, transfer everything from your old phone, and give you a tutorial on the new one.
  • Laundry brand Tide launched a home laundry pickup and delivery service in Chicago, Link, helping busy consumers live “life over laundry.”

Other brands have established subscription services to deliver their products directly to consumers on a set schedule, usually monthly (see Dollar Shave Club for razors, Birchbox for makeup and toiletries, Kiwi Crate for kids’ crafts, and Amazon’s Subscribe & Save for all your household items).  

As a bonus, many of these products and services are less expensive than traditional alternatives, helping consumers save both money and time.

Though still in early days, consumers’ appetites for greater convenience will only grow as we get more comfortable with predictive algorithms ordering on our behalf (e.g. Link) enables connected devices to order physical goods from Amazon, such as the Smart Brita Pitcher, HP Instant Ink printers, or smart Whirlpool washers and dryers, which can automatically order new water filters, ink, or laundry supplies respectively when they are getting low). Which suggests that any decent convenience play offers more opportunity than risk.

So while the trend toward “where you need it, when you need it” certainly doesn’t apply to every shopping situation, brands in the right categories can leverage the technology of convenience to a potentially huge advantage.

If you’d like to see examples of how Traction has designed experiences that have enhanced the buying process for customers, you can contact us Link and arrange a time to talk.

Lauren McGehee Senior Strategist

As one of the bigger brains at Traction, Lauren makes sure that everything we do has a damn good reason to exist. As the champion for the consumer, she steers our discovery and research to insure that we have relevant insights into our audiences’ behavior and desires. When she’s not making our team better, she is learning about the world through travel, food, books, art, and chasing her very fast dog, Greg.