The path of least retail resistance

  • Opinion
  • April 26, 2018
  • Craig Herbison
The path of least retail resistance

The path of least resistance requires the least amount of effort, often referred to as ‘frictionless shopping’.

Focusing on removing friction is one way that bricks and mortar brands can grow sales quickly without the need to expand their physical footprint.

Amazon has built an entire retail empire, in large part, by removing effort from how we shop.

  • Instant search and relevant recommendations on their website reduce the time and effort usually associated with finding what you want online.
  • Fast and affordable delivery of goods, removes the effort needed to collect your goods.
  • Physical “buy now” buttons for replacing common household items remove the need to even go online.
  • A voice command speaker quite literally removes the need to even lift a finger when shopping.

It’s not just these solutions but these kinds of innovations, across a whole range of industries, that have changed consumer attitudes to shopping and made the path of least resistance more important than ever.

For Amazon, one of the things grabbing attention lately is its recent foray into physical retail, with grocery being their biggest play yet.

The recent launch, and possible expansion, of Amazon Go, the no check-out shopping experience, provides the strongest indication of how the online juggernaut thinks it can remove friction from physical stores, and in the process, create the path of least resistance for offline shoppers.

To remain competitive other grocery chains will have to accelerate the introduction of frictionless technology – and brick and mortar retailers generally will have to do the same - or risk seeing Amazon come after them next, and win the battle for offline sales as well.

Amazon is not the first to undertake this kind of innovation and it certainly won’t be the last. Brands with physical locations have made removing friction from the customer experience a key focus in recent years.

Ideas from some other brands are already proving very successful at attracting customers and growing sales:

Two years ago 7-Eleven in Australia launched the enormously successful “Fuel Lock” app, which removes friction from the process of finding and paying for the best priced fuel near you. Among fuel retailers it was awarded the “2018 Most Satisfied Customers Award” by Canstar - thanks largely to this world first innovation that drives value and convenience.

7-Eleven in Korea recently launched vein mapping technology at a single store to test if it can speed up the check-out process. Simply scan your wrist, which contains a unique pattern of veins that can be linked to a credit card, which hastens your exit.

Convenience has always been at the heart of McDonald’s brand. From kiosk ordering in restaurants to curbside delivery and the recently launched mobile order and pay; the restaurant giant is successfully reducing friction for millions of guests at its restaurants around the world, every single day.

In New Zealand, Foodstuffs has recently announced a partnership with IMAGR, which is creating a shopping basket that scans products as you shop and checks you out automatically at departure.

Hilton Hotels award winning loyalty app enables mobile check-in and allocates you a room which can then be opened using the app, which acts as a “digital key”, therefore removing the need to check-in via reception at all.

These sorts of innovations are designed to ensure that the customer experience requires the least amount of effort. The result is improved loyalty, more frequent visits, higher average transaction value, better brand scores and improved customer satisfaction.

Craig Herbison – CEO of Plexure

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