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Are you customer convenient?


The new year has well and truly dawned and we are already seeing customer experience strategies across industries continuing to centre on convenience and consumer satisfaction as a differentiator and growth driver. Providing convenience has long been a catalyst behind innovation and growth. Customers instinctually gravitate to frictionless experiences and reward the game changing companies and ideas that offer them. It's why today, we watch new movie releases on Netflix and pre-order our groceries on an app.

Whether it is providing a convenient solution for the customer or your business, there are some game-changing innovations to be adopted to keep competitive, relevant and compelling.


Self service

The only specific statistics I can lay my hands on easily come out of the US where the self-service industry is expected to grow from $28.01 billion in 2020 to $68.01 billion by the end of 2026.

Powering that growth in 2022, the industry is expected to incorporate new AI technologies along with seamless and secure identity-verification solutions to improve user experiences. Why? Consumers have become more comfortable with self-service experiences at ATMs, kiosks, vending machines and via their smart phones.

As a result of not only the pandemic but also labour shortages, adopting self-service technologies can address friction from multiple viewpoints. That means we should expect to see more industries like QSR, healthcare, government and transport to accelerate their solutions.

Whatever self-service strategy a business adopts for the future, it's clear

solutions like these not only save dollars in labour but ensure customer service doesn't take a backseat.


Vending Machines

According to a recent report by ResearchAndMarkets.com, the global market for vending machines estimated at US$134.4 billion in 2020, is projected to reach US$146.6 billion by 2027. Japan, the home of vending machines, has over 4 million vending machines, the most per capita of any country in the world. And they proved to be a valuable revenue stream for many companies during the pandemic. 


Beauty at the bus stop: Mecca uses vending machines to drive gift sales

One off favourite vending solutions appeared in locations throughout Australia, with beauty retailer Mecca creating new opportunities to connect with Christmas shoppers.By introducing gift card vending machines in high foot traffic areas of Australia’s major cities, the retailer’s ‘gifting’ panels, were positioned to serve consumers with a speedy and convenient shopping experience while they are out and about in the lead up to Christmas. 


Autonomous checkout

Local supermarkets must have breathed a sigh of relief in past weeks, as Omicron obliterated staff availability, that they were world-leaders in implementing self-checkout. Self-checkout is one of the biggest disrupters in the recent past and we continue to see this grow.

A step further than self-service, autonomous checkout is a completely hassle-less experience Amazon Go launched their cashier-less convenience store experience.

Since then, the company has expanded the technology and earlier this month Amazon opened the first Whole Foods equipped with cashier-less technology. The “just walk out” technology allows customers to shop and leave the store with their items without having to interact with any kind of cashier.



An industry contact who visited the store said Whole Foods features Amazon’s palm-recognition technology for entry alongside more typical QR codes. The store still has a number of employees staffing various counters who also explain how the cashierless technology works. The store also amplifies more self-service, like offering a bread-slicer for customers to slice their own loaves. Customers can also choose self-service checkouts if they don’t want to use Just Walk Out.

Robots and heated lockers

I nearly wasn’t going to put this example in but the innovation is superb – so let’s celebrate the idea of KFC and ignore the fact this is in the Russian capital Moscow (👏👏👏👏 KFC for closing all your stores in Russia in support of Ukraine).

Passers-by on the streets of Moscow can now visit their favourite fast food restaurant and be served by one of the robots that have settled there.

When the customer enters through the door their first interaction takes place with a self-order kiosk based on facial recognition. This system is able to speed up waits by recognising recurring customers and proposing orders that they have already used in the past. The customer does not touch the device at any time, and payments are handled through a compatible virtual wallet.

There is always the possibility that the technology entail some difficulty for some customers who are not used to dealing with the new systems. KFC have considered this and a disoriented consumer may use the SOS kiosk. This kiosk is manned by the only person who works in the restaurant, the manager of the premises, who will support that customer so their user experience is ideal.




Ghost store convenience and more lockers

Online food delivery app Deliveroo opened its first bricks and mortar store in Hong Kong called Deliveroo Food Market, and hosts somewhere between 5-10 different restaurants. In this hybrid concept, essentially a ghost kitchen, customers can walk in and order food “to go” or from these restaurant partners or place orders for delivery. You can select items from the different restaurants like a giant menu.


Operating like a co-working space, these kitchens allow restaurants to expand where they can deliver without building additional locations. This enables a restaurant or QSR brand to expand its reach, so this adds convenience and a physicality for the brand in a different way and also enables customers to order on their terms. The added benefit is the emergence of ghost kitchens allows a brand to launch in a new location without the need to acquire expensive real estate yet still expose themselves to a whole new customer audience. The beauty of this concept is the customer can interact remotely, in-store or click and collect.

Winning the Convenience Game Shopping is the most convenient it has ever been, as forward-thinking brands set the bar high. What do you need to consider when considering your convenience game?

  • Convenience is definitely not just free or fast shipping—it is an overall consumer experience that eases the shopper journey. Carefully understand and define what convenience is for your shopper and more important, what it is not.

  • How does your own business rate as a whole? Is convenience a common thread or do you have a business that makes doing things harder? Jumping through hoops? Not working effectively cross-functionally? If not, you need to start here as it comes from the top.

  • Have you evaluated your shoppers’ willingness to pay for convenience as well as the businesses willingness to invest. Convenience innovation doesn’t come cheap and you need to commit and continue to innovate.

  • Convenience is the new normal but it doesn’t have to be your specific USP. However those retailers that are poised to succeed will not only invest in convenience but also follow through on their promise to make consumers’ lives easier.

 

Meeting customers’ high expectations is not an overnight undertaking; it requires cross-functional coordination and can present many challenges.


RetailX can help your business begin by identifying where you can build convenience into your internal processes and stay focused on customers’ needs and preferences. And remember, what makes customers’ lives easier today may not be what makes their lives easier tomorrow and we are the masters at taking your business on the journey of reinvention and repositioning for ongoing growth and retail success.


Contact Juanita to discuss what’s keeping you awake at night or how convenience can be a part of your future strategy.

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