Customer Behaviour

Kevin Gill, UK CEO of Start looks at why our overriding need for an easy life is drowning-out the pleasure of going shopping.

Convenience is a modern fixation. Brands feed it constantly, creating new and smarter ways to make doing the shopping easier and faster. We know that hectic lifestyles and ever-present technologies have turned us into an impatient bunch, and that there’s now an excruciatingly high expectation on what convenience should be.

But if retail brands want to survive the next wave of change, shopping experiences can’t just get easier.

Life in the Fast Lane

Our perceived lack of time is a constant worry; and for brands finding ways to save it a perennial preoccupation. But saving it is only half the story. Creating ways for us to spend time well – with you in your store – is equally vital as shopping becomes synonymous with leisure and digital integration wipes out convenience as a brand differentiator.

Doing the shopping has never been so effortless. The Amazons of this world have seen to that. Fingertip access to product reviews, pricing information and same day delivery innovation mean we can buy much of what we need without even leaving the sofa. Technology’s made it so.

And the more convenience we get, the more we want. The Internet has conditioned us to expect speed, enabling us to deal instantly with the basics of shopping. This endless cycle of heightening expectation magnifies the consumer mandate across all channels and touch-points. They’re saying: “make my interactions easier, faster, simpler or I’ll shop elsewhere.”

And how’s this for proof: for every tenth of a second the customer waits for a web page to load they lose one percentile of purchase intent. That’s 10% less intent with each finger-drum on the keyboard.

No surprise then, that convenience is dominating brand innovation and shaping much of the retail landscape, both on and offline. It’s what we at Start are calling the ‘fast imperative’ for brands. Our addiction to expediency is driving brands to create products, services and experiences that let us live life in the fast lane whenever we want to.

Time for Going Shopping

But what about when we want to step off the treadmill? Where we can enjoy the mindset of ‘spending time’, rather than saving it?

We’re seeing that the domination of digital interactions are actually starting to drive us to go seek tangible, enjoyable, physical experiences instead. As a result we’re looking for new, ever more exciting, intense and social ways to get every ounce of value from our leisure time.

Think of Airbnb giving experience-hungry millennials access to thousands of unique holidays. Or Secret Cinema, turning a regular trip to the movies into a cinematic, pop-up extravaganza.

Retail brands must tap into these desires, rather than focusing solely on convenience, and deliver exciting spaces that reward the effort people make to visit them.

Physical stores clearly have an important role to play when it comes to convenience as part of a brand’s omnichannel offer. But those that use the store as not much more than a glorified distribution hub – where consumers are in and out withour so much as a hello or goodbye – are missing a trick. Faster, smarter ways to do the shopping mean brands save us time to spend at our leisure – going shopping as a day out rather doing it as a chore.

As well as investing in fast retail, brands must compel us to spend the surplus time they have saved as well, with them. In their stores.

Sephora’s is one brand that’s leading the way with its new Flash store, bringing the convenience of the internet and the intimacy of a store together for the first time. Although smaller than Sephora’s existing stores, it offers a full catalogue through intelligent digital tools, making it easy to explore products, decide what to buy and instantly arrange home delivery. Adding to the experience are the brow, lash and nail bars that help customers to test products in the flesh, while experiencing their full remit on digital screens.

Louis Vuitton’s recent Series 3 exhibition launched to showcase its AW 2015/2016 collection, and is another great example of a physical space that lets people shop for pleasure. The brand created a digitally enabled, multisensory series of unique rooms, each one immersing the visitor in a different aspect of what inspired Nicolas Ghesquieres’ designs.

Shopping for pleasure

Saving time and making life simple are now at the heart of good value for today’s consumers. The growth of the online shopping is clear testament to this. But equivalent value also lies in the distinctive experiences brands provide that bring real pleasure to our day. The physical store has unique advantages here as it can deliver something that people can’t get anywhere else, giving brands vital opportunities to build relationships and drive loyalty.

For consumers today, digital convenience is a means to an end. Successful retailers will be those that create retail experiences that respond to both leisure and convenience mindsets. It’s those that win over the leisure seekers that will come out on top in a post-digital world. Convenience is killing shopping because it’s no longer a clear enough differentiator for consumers to shop with you. It’s a given.

As technology evolves and digital blends into the background of our lives, disruptive retail innovation will become increasingly normal. Convenience then, will be an expected and integrated part of the retail experience that brands offer. Its value as a means for us to choose one retail brand over another will gradually lessen. If brands let convenience dominate the entire retail experience, with little to entertain and engage, they risk people leaving their stores for those that deliver something more rewarding.

Kevin Gill

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