Is the convenience economy convenient for retailers?

Discussion
Source: Onfleet
Jan 28, 2016
Debbie Hauss

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Just when retailers are finally getting up to speed on omnichannel, they face a new challenge: The Convenience Economy. It’s hard to argue with convenience, right? But for retailers, that means finding new ways to get products and services to customers even faster, and finding the right partners to make this goal a reality.

Today, retailers can choose from a variety of partners that can help facilitate their convenience objectives, including UberEATS, Hurrier and GoButler, to name just a few.

“It’s all about everything being at your disposal at the click of a button, primarily driven by mobile technology,” noted Chris Bryson, CEO of Unata.

The question for retailers: Are we set up to be able to offer these types of on-demand products and services? Harkening back to the Daily Deal service that destroyed many small businesses due to over-demand, retailers need to be sure they are set up to “deliver” on this promise.

To help retailers hone their focus, Mr. Bryson discussed five ways to expect the “convenience economy” to break into retail:

  1. A continued focus on mobile to create an “anytime, anywhere” experience, enabling online browsing on the go, ordering ahead, paying ahead, curbside pickup, delivery, and more.
  2. More use of wayfinding and location-based services: just like Uber, users want to be notified when their order is ready, or if their delivery is near. Delivery management software like Onfleet & Bringg enable these capabilities.
  3. Targeted offers through beacons and proximity-based services (like Gimbal) to consumers when they are nearby or in-store, to inspire them to buy at just the right moment, making their grocery trip feel easy and successful.
  4. Digital coupons and offers from your mobile phone, allowing the consumer to clip and redeem coupons digitally, while in store. No more cutting up paper or printing coupons.
  5. Order ahead and delivery for catering and prepared foods. This is a huge opportunity for grocers that service lunches with their specialty sections.

 

In what ways do you see on-demand technologies altering expectations around convenience for retailers in the years ahead? What services or features that seem like a bonus to customers today will be expected tomorrow?

Braintrust
"To set the record straight: The Convenience Economy is not a departure from omnichannel — it’s simply one aspect. Retailers that are embracing omnichannel and making smart investments are going to be well-prepared for this next, new "Convenience Economy" thing."

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14 Comments on "Is the convenience economy convenient for retailers?"

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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Sometimes I think these things are a bit overblown. Food deliveries, sure. But other items … convenience is not having to be home when the product shows up, knowing when it is coming (time of day, not the exact minute it’s going to arrive).

But I have become really enamored with Uber’s use of GPS to let you know where your car is. I can see it having tremendous application in retail, both in stores and for home delivery.

But the rest of the notion — I just don’t see anything new.

Debbie Hauss
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

The ability to access products and services on-demand in real time will just continue to fuel consumers’ expectations to be able to get what they want now! Retailers should be looking for the right partners to facilitate these experiences, from beacon technology to Uber delivery services. I expect a lot of these types of convenience solutions to percolate in the industry in the next few years. As always, if retailers want to stay ahead of the competition they may need to take a chance on a not-yet-proven solution and hope that it has staying power for the long term. Businesses must be willing to try out quick test-and-fail/win projects.

Mohamed Amer
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

People are fundamentally mobile and technologies that embrace that paradigm are rocketing in popularity.

To do mobile right as in the consumer-facing examples in this article, you need to have a digital core that connects the entire value chain (within and beyond the proverbial four walls) in support of those on-demand services — the ones we can imagine today (and becoming table stakes) and those not yet realized.

Flexibility, speed and agility are the keys to future business survival in a digital world; how well you organize and execute on those dimensions will determine your success.

Ed Dunn
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Convenience to me means I can walk in the store and pay for what I want and walk out — no technology involved. Like a hot dog stand or bodega. The on-demand technology to me is more about communication, letting me constantly know the status of my ordered product or service. The on-demand request and constant status communication with the customer is what I find important for retailers to incorporate to stay relevant.

Bob Amster
Guest
1 year 10 months ago
As consumers, we have come to live in society of immediate gratification in most instances. The on-demand technologies certainly support the gratification/convenience demand from the consumer. The challenge is that retailers are now faced with having to satisfy the consumer demand for convenience. Certainly there are certain instances in which some chores or processes are just seen as a waste of time which could otherwise be spent on more leisure activities (oh, that it were so). Retailers will be forced to respond to this demand. The consumer sees little reason to wait in line to buy tickets to a movie, or to check out of a supermarket. Conversely, many consumers enjoy sitting down to a leisurely dinner in a restaurant and there is no additional need on the part of the restaurateur than to honor the reservation and deliver good food and good service. In all other cases we are moving faster and expecting more speed, convenience and accuracy from providers of goods and services, and the latter will have to be increasingly able to… Read more »
Jonathan Marek
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

I think this is all correct and the five ideas are good ones. But while the tactics have evolved, I don’t think the principle is new. In fact, there have been much bigger leaps in convenience in the past — think the advent of the Sears Catalog which made manufactured goods available at all! Or a more modern example, the proliferation of dollar stores in under-retailed rural and inner-city areas.

That said, convenience is often a great goal and retailers absolutely need to be testing a wide variety of tactics with that goal in mind.

Shep Hyken
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

I want it, and I want it now — or at least real soon!

This is the attitude that we’ve trained our customers to believe is realistic. And some companies have stepped up to the challenge, and with great success.

Customers want convenience. They want an easy and frictionless experience. For some that means short checkout lines. For others that means they never see a checkout line, as they buy online. For some, it’s buy online and then pick-up in-store. Convenience means different things to different customers, and the expectations vary depending on the industry.

Amazon.com set the bar for reasonable shipping times. They are experimenting with two-hour delivery in some markets. To me, that’s a huge bonus. I want it. I get it … not only today, but in just two hours!

Here’s the real bonus: time. Give me, the customer, time. That’s a big value-add for me.

Lee Kent
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Hmmm. Convenience doesn’t always mean, “I want it now.” It means, “I want it my way.” With that said, retailers need to know their customers and what their customers want from them.

Take Uber for example. Their customers are waiting for a ride. What do they want to know? Who is picking them up, i.e. what do the car and driver look like? Where are they and when will they arrive? And of course they want a simple/convenient way to pay.

What do your customers want and expect? That story varies.

For my 2 cents.

Michael Day
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Speaking as the voice of the consumer here: With two kids still at home and both parents working, my family already averages 2-3 orders per week on Amazon Prime…previously those weekly Prime purchases came from bricks-and-mortar retail, etc.

Retail disintermediation continues. And any attraction to on-demand technologies and convenience will only continue from this household.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
1 year 10 months ago
The problem is how to become a leader in low prices, giveaways and instant service/gratification profitably. Not an easy task in the land of high speed internet search engines. It is apparent that there are a wide variety of retailers that are finding success in this economy. In all aspects of merchant endeavor the interest and focus is turn, out-of-stocks, shelf live and product reliability. The modern day technologies and methods in planning, purchasing and allocation are in the midst of an evolutionary process to understand and engage the 21st century retail platforms. The need to stay in front of these changing demands with a mindset for success in the ways of our own companies is no longer an option. Resets and experimental inventory burns profit dollars at an unacceptable rate in a stagnant economy. Product failures make these efforts a less than profitable operational effort more often than not. Selecting from a proven product source and keeping all of the B&M and fulfillment floor space for A, Band C turning product needs to remain… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

I don’t see much — if anything — good: consumers will develop unrealistic expectations, then turn around and yap about it on social media when their expectations aren’t met.

Retailers will have to learn:

1) some people are compulsive complainers and will have to be ignored – or “fired”;
2) It’s better to be good than fast.

Lance Thornswood
Guest
1 year 10 months ago
To set the record straight: The Convenience Economy is not a departure from omnichannel — it’s simply one aspect. Retailers that are embracing omnichannel and making smart investments are going to be well-prepared for this next, new “Convenience Economy” thing. And, BTW, doing omnichannel well is not optional if we want our businesses to thrive in the coming months and years. Customers DO want greater convenience, and most retailers can start by making sure their mobile and eCommerce user experience is well-conceived and cleanly executed. Streamline the customer experience and make things fast and intuitive. It’s important to get the basics right before leapfrogging past that stuff and putting all our focus on bleeding-edge convenience tech. What will customers want? Smart location-aware capabilities – cereal coupons that start buzzing your phone when you’re walking down the cereal aisle aren’t very elegant and they’re not going to cut it. Most retailers are still experimenting to find something that customers really want and that also adds business value. Convenience and flexibility in “the last mile” – whether it’s… Read more »
Vahe Katros
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Convenience as an attribute to drive brand loyalty varies by consumer and segment, but it is a North Star in retailing. Retailers just need to know when it matters, why it matters, and figure out how to deliver in ways that scale. Mobile enables the redesign of services, but everyone faces the challenge of determining where and how evolve.

Software companies know all about the MVP — the minimum viable product. In retailing, it may pay to understand your MVR-BM or minimum viable retailing business model. I write business model because it’s not about adopting the tech enabler of the week, it’s about crafting a new version of yourself that is sustainable — remember, it’s about the cookie cutter.

William Hogben
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Many brick and mortar retailers are concerned about increasing their convenience when compared to online only operations — they see convenience as requiring them to offer fast and cheap delivery options — in other words they are trying to out-Amazon Amazon. That will never work in the long run — brick and mortar retailers have too many additional expenses, (like main street real estate) to compete with pure delivery models.

If physical retailers want to beat Amazon at convenience they need to utilize their most valuable asset: the store itself. New technology like mobile checkout systems allow consumers to treat the store like their own pantry, walking in, buying items from their phone and carrying them out. This is a convenience advantage that only physical retailers can provide — and I believe it’s the ticket to saving main street businesses in the long run.

(Full disclosure: I make FutureProof Retail’s mobile checkout system)

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Braintrust
"To set the record straight: The Convenience Economy is not a departure from omnichannel — it’s simply one aspect. Retailers that are embracing omnichannel and making smart investments are going to be well-prepared for this next, new "Convenience Economy" thing."

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