That Was Easy: Retailers Must Simplify Shopping In A Complex World

Shopping today is an experience in choice: consumers can shop in person, on a desktop or from a mobile device. They can communicate with a brand via phone, email, text messaging, live chat, social channels or via an AI-driven bot on a messenger service. Payment and delivery options proliferate like proverbial bunnies; last year’s same-day delivery and Apple Pay will be joined by options for scheduled drone drop-offs and iris scanning in the not-so-distant future.

It’s true that consumers want these options and retailers have obliged, but with all this choice comes complexity. How did shopping become so hard? It’s time to evaluate this complicated landscape we’ve wrought and simplify the process. To make the experience effortless.

How did shopping become so hard?

Amazon Go, announced this week, is a brilliant example of identifying the highest friction parts of the typical consumer experience and eliminating them. This grocery store, which requires no discrete checkout, allows customers to select their products and just walk out of the store with them. Amazon has taken their one-click online checkout to zero clicks in the physical world. The effect seems akin to hitting your pantry or food storage rather than grocery shopping, which one can imagine will foster repeat visits.

Amazon has created the Uber version of a grocery store: store your payment info and log into the app on your phone, walk in and walk out. No fuss, no muss.

How do they do this? Magic. Actually, most likely via a mixture of sensors, cameras and similar technologies and a smartphone app to recognize the customer and the products she’s walking out with. The true magic is that Amazon knows the customer across every interaction on every device and now in the real world, and is able to stitch the experience together around her. This requires some privacy tradeoffs, but wouldn’t you be willing to have your identity recognized if it meant never standing in a checkout line again?

Winning retailers will follow a similar strategy to reduce complexity in their own experiences. The returns part of the journey offers great potential: the easier it is to return a product, the more likely the customer will turn around and buy something else. Data-driven personalization will be critical to curating the right set of choices for each customer. Anticipating consumer questions and proactively providing answers will also be paramount. We can’t make them work for it.

Retailers must make a concerted effort to create a consumer experience that feels downright effortless.

It should be as easy as taking an outfit from your closet, or putting it back on the hanger if you change your mind. Shopping can and should be both richer, and more simple, than ever.