We Are Consumer

We Are Consumer.

We are not in-store or on mobile exclusively. 

We are everywhere.

And we never close.

Creating different experiences for in-store, online and mobile is a thing of the past. And we are well beyond acting like customers aren’t showrooming. Consumers want to consume and interact on their terms when, how and where they want.

We have to not only allow this, but embrace and facilitate the increasing want for this from consumers if we want to create loyalty and brand affinity going forward. We have to allow them to consume and create stories and journeys their way. In this on demand economy and always on culture, customer expectations for speed and ease of use are rising exponentially. As businesses respond in kind, impatience and impulsiveness will only continue (a recent study from TIME Inc states digital natives subconsciously move between devices and platforms on average 27 times per hour).

This does mean that we have to reassess the way that we target and interact with consumers. Rather than utilising data and targeting the consumer in the way that is of most benefit to the us, or simply how we think that consumers wish to be interacted with, we have to offer the choice and allow the consumer to decide and then then we must deliver.

This means that we must eschew the linear narratives of old for more fluid and immersive narrative experiences that allow people to pick up and get involved how and when they want. This embodies a sub-trend which is that of ‘little and often’ which has spawned a series of incredibly successful businesses. Technological advances such as underground wifi, wifi hotspots and 4G penetration means that this generation do not have the resistance that previous generations did.

These factors along side with the convenience, the context and perceived control for the customer are driving the upsurge in mobile and tablet usage and commerce. The key is that we have to allow people to consume how, where, when it suits them. Both BestBuy and WallMart now allow people to order online and collect in store (40% of all of BestBuy and 50% of WallMart online orders are now collected this way). But, why stop here. Why not allow people to buy in store and then have it delivered? Or meet them at a train station such as the recent initiative by ASDA. eBay, google and amazon all offer same day deliveries, Shutl deliver within the hour (and have just be snapped up by eBay for an eight figure sum), Uber is leading the revolution of personal transportation: Click to order, and minutes later your personal, quality-checked driver arrives, with the payment taken care of behind the scenes. This constant need for immediacy or an “on-demand” model is going to extend across other personal services, from home maintenance to dog walking. TV repairman? Your device says there are five that can be with in within thirty minutes etc.

Advances in technology are allowing for the ever-increasing ability to collect audience data giving retailers the ability to target the personal context of the each customer. As retailers and marketers embrace customer-centricity fully new trends are emerging, based not on media channels, but user context i.e., location, time, intent etc.

To put it another way, we are now living in an age of hyper-personalisation and individualisation where retailers and marketers are able to deliver real time, reactive experiences for each customer based on their personal preferences. Today 35% of Amazon’s consumer purchases come from their algorithm based recommendations.

A recent Accenture study found that 61% of Millennial’s would trade privacy for more personalised offers and experiences. The most important word here is ‘Trade’. People are increasingly aware of the value, power and worth of their data.

In the past few years we have seen people both embracing and resisting technology’s growing omnipresence in their lives. For many, tech serves as a gateway and an enabler of hyper-personalised and hyper-efficient lives, but those who are most immersed are beginning to question its effect on their lives and their privacy. People are now seeking to create a balance and be more in the moment and mindful of the wider context of technology with their lives.

This has led to a shift to the third stage of mobile user interaction. The initial offerings for the iPhone and then Android devices adhered fairly closely to the ‘information appliance’ model. Using software, you transformed your phone into a mostly mono-purpose device just like it said on the tin. Now it’s a phone. Now it’s a calculator. Now it’s a messaging tool.

The second phase is the ‘home screen’ era, where every app fought hard to be your home base. The prevailing wisdom was that you had to cram everything your service offered into mobile, using a form of design-driven gavage to stuff your app until it was positively groaning with tabs and gutters and drawers.

Now, we’re entering the age of apps as service layers. These are apps you have on your phone but, only open when you know they explicitly have something to say to you. They aren’t for ‘idle browsing’, they’re purpose built and informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors, location, history of use and predictive computation.

These ‘invisible apps’ are less about the way they look or how many features they cram in and more about maximizing their usefulness to you without monopolising your attention.

What happens when a social network knows exactly what posts you’ll want to read and tells you when you can see them, and not before? What about a shopping app that ignores everything that you’re unlikely to buy and taps you on the shoulder for only the most relevant deals? What about a location aware app that knows where you and all of your friends are at all times but is smart enough to know when you want people to know and when you don’t?

Proximity, and access to location based data, has changed everything. It allows people to be much more in the moment and brands that facilitate this ‘in the moment’ lifestyle will prevail. The after hours athletes by puma tapped into just this. Personalisation can and, more importantly, should drill down to a person’s device, context, location and personal preference.

The new media universe has less friction and more transparency, it’s faster, less forgiving and far more exciting.  It is also potentially far more profitable for those who are willing to go beyond the context of their experience. It’s about emotion, removing barriers and putting brands in the hands of consumers. It’s about utilising technology to make an experience seamlessly more immersive.

The barriers between worlds are evaporating, with the advent and adoption of digital tools helping to combine and fuse this into a singular experience. Retailers that provide people with engaging, digitally augmented experiences can expect in-store sales to increase by as much as 40% (Sapient Nitro insights 2013). By making the shopping a frictionless experience through storytelling, brands are re-imagining the ‘final mile’ or ZMOT and creating unique experiences for consumers that convert browsers into shoppers.

As digital media transcends the physical worlds, it creates new opportunities for a more immersive, entertaining and personlised – even multi-sensory – experience. Be it vibrating underwear that is controlled by a mobile app, light up beer bottles that react to the bar/club environment, smartphone controlled cityscapes, interactive bus stops; the focus should be on making the experience better, not adding levels of complexity. The experience economy by B Joseph Pine 2 and James H Gilmore (1998) was one of the first to suggest that people consume experiences, but this year consumer adoption of technology will allow brands to deliver genuinely helpful and interesting digitally enhanced experiences.

In essence retailers must reinvent the way that they sell and market their offerings allowing customers to purchase how, when and within the context that suits them. With lines blurring the physical and digital worlds, shopping is merging into one seamless customer experience that complements and augments one another. Retailers must create an environment that keeps customers engaged as in a market as fragmented as this, customers can easily lose interest due to haphazard displays, poor navigation or simply not being delivered and experience in keeping with the brand promise. We need to always keep in mind that our customers are just someone else’s customers who have chosen in this instance to shop with us.

However you look at it, it is on their terms now.

As marketers and retailers we need to help people connect the dots from virtual to real world and beyond by promoting and embracing how they’re already interacting. Shopping is supposed to be about more than just a transaction; they are about fun and emotional gratification. Retailers of all sizes need to stop facilitating transactions and start getting creative about ways to help shoppers feel connected in more than one space.

In essence we need to stop selling and start enabling.