Uber and Lyft drivers are just 1 click away, Amazon offers free same-day delivery, and Deliveroo can get us food from our favorite restaurant in under 32 minutes… Gone are the days in which consumers agreed to invest effort and wait to be served. In a fast-paced world, we look for consumption that is time- and labor-saving.

It’s all about convenience

What matters to consumers is the time and effort they have to expend – the less, the better. ‘Fast’ and ‘easy’ are keywords that should be high on any marketer’s agenda. Take the example of Uber. Its success is not based on a strong emotional connection with customers. What makes the platform so successful is captured by a single word: convenience. Uber’s interface is intuitive and user-friendly. You open the app, type in your destination and immediately receive pricing information. Upon agreement, a driver is immediately connected to you and knows where to pick you up. Reaching your destination, you just get out of the car and Uber charges your credit card automatically.

“What matters to consumers is the time and effort they have to expend – the less, the better.”

So, what is convenience then exactly? Academic research by Len Berry and colleagues in the Journal of Marketing suggests that there are five different levels of convenience[1].

1# Decision Convenience

The first is decision convenience or the time and effort needed to make a purchase/consumption decision. A great example here is Netflix’s recommendation system, driving more than 80 per cent of content watched on the platform. To avoid subscribers getting lost the vast library, the company goes to great lengths to serve up its content in the most fun and easy way possible. The success is undeniable with Netflix being the dominating streaming platform of the moment.

2# Access Convenience

Second comes access convenience or the time and effort needed to get hold of what is desired. Chinese Hema Fresh puts strong emphasis on this dimension. Being part of Alibaba’s new retail concept, the highly popular grocery chain seeks to integrate the best of offline and online. Hema, among other things, has an in-store on-demand kitchen (just like Whole Foods), is able to deliver any order under 30 minutes within a specified delivery radius (just like Instacart) and sells pre-packaged meal kits to make consumers’ lives easier (just like Hello Fresh). At the basis of this model is a sophisticated and data-driven logistics systems, setting the example for the entire retail industry.

3# Transaction Convenience

Third is transaction convenience or the time and effort needed to pay for products. A prime example here is Amazon that put an easy and transparent payment experience at the core of its business. Its new Amazon Go stores even go further and remove any checkout hassles by automating the payment system, completely eliminating the cashier and waiting lines. The successful concept is set to grow to as many as 3,000 new U.S. stores in the next few years, while also expanding to other countries worldwide.

Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

4# Benefit Convenience

Fourth is benefit convenience or the time and effort needed to consume the product. Consumers today are looking for simple and efficient consumption experiences, allowing them to make the best of their time. The popular navigation app Waze, owned by Google, offers its users such a simple and intuitive user interface, providing highly contextual information like traffic, obstructions and other hazards to minimize travel time. In 2016, Waze partnered up with Dunkin’ Donuts, a U.S. coffeehouse chain, and integrated an ‘Order Ahead’ function. Wazers, as Waze calls its user base, may order coffee within the app and speed past the line when picking up their order inside a DD restaurant.

5# Postbenefit Convenience

Finally comes postbenefit convenience or the time and effort needed to deal with such factors as product maintenance, exchange or failure recovery. One example here is Tesla’s mobile service teams allowing cars to be serviced when and where customers are in need. More recently, the U.S. carmaker introduced an automated service feature allowing Tesla cars to order parts that require replacement on their own. Doing so, Tesla reduces the time needed for car maintenance and proactively prevents any failures.

Pushing the convenience bar

To successfully interact with today’s hyper-connected and impatient consumers, marketers should be obsessed with delivering ‘fast’ and ‘easy’ solutions to customers. But how?

Regular audits to understand improvement points along the entire customer journey are recommended. A strong customer mindset should be driven by questions like What is it that customers are looking for? How can we further enhance/simplify the customer experience? What levels of convenience matter most? A deep understanding of customers based on solid metrics and a thirst to experiment in search for better customer solutions are key to any organization seeking success. Netflix is well-known for its continuous use of A/B-testing to optimize the platform’s interface. Any major change to the Netflix experience is preceded by extensive testing. Nothing is left to chance.

“While some marketers would argue this thinking does not apply to their industry, nothing could be more wrong.”

Artificially intelligent technologies now allow for cost-effective real-time service delivery, 24/7. Despite clear limitations still there, the growing occurrence of chatbots, personal (voice) assistants and humanoids at the service frontline is rapidly making real-time service delivery a minimum requirement to compete on the market[1]. It is imperative for any organization to look into this exciting new world of possibilities and to see where technology can be used to enhance the customer experience. KLM, the Dutch airline, is fueling its customer service with AI to automate over half of all inquiries through Facebook, Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp. The result? A doubling of its case volume and service agents freeing up time to focus on cases requiring a human approach.

While some marketers would argue this thinking does not apply to their industry, nothing could be more wrong. Take the example of Lemonade. The U.S. insurance platform is rapidly transforming a seemingly rock-solid industry. Their approach? The promise of a zero paperwork and instant everything. Lemonade uses AI to sign up customers and to evaluate claims, boasting it takes a maximum of 3 minutes from approval to payout. The result? A four-year-old startup valued at $2bn.

It is clear, no organization is free from the push toward higher convenience. Time to become ‘fast’ and ‘easy’! The Uber’s and Amazon’s of this planet won’t wait for you to catch up.

KLM providing digital services on the Google Assistant

 


Sources:

[1] Berry, Leonard L., Kathleen Seider and Dhruv Grewal (2002), “Understanding Service Convenience,” Journal of Marketing, 66 (July), 1-17.

[2] De Keyser, Arne, Sarah Köcher, Linda Alkire (Née Nasr), Cédric Verbeeck and Jay Kandampully (2019), “Frontline Service Technology Infusion: Conceptual Archetypes and Future Research Directions,” Journal of Service Management, 30(1), 156-183.