Luxury Brands Must Minimise Customer Effort on Path to Purchase


Neil Cunningham | December 10, 2015

How can luxury brands maximise sales? Make the purchase journey as convenient as possible, explains Neil Cunningham, Managing Director of Cream UK

How can luxury brands maximise sales? Make the purchase journey as convenient as possible, explains Neil Cunningham, Managing Director of Cream UK.

We’re into the 2015 Christmas shopping season – your plans are set and the die are cast. Of course, there’s still work to do – optimising campaigns to ensure they deliver the maximum in impact and sales – but your mind may be starting to drift to the 2016 holiday shopping season and how it will be different to this year’s.

It’s my job to look at emerging trends and work out what impact they’ll have on luxury businesses like yours and when. With respect to Christmas 2016, I can tell you now there’s really only one development to focus on – the trend of minimising customer effort.

The significance of customer effort was first introduced in October 2010 in an article provocatively entitled Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers. Published in the Harvard Business Review, authors Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman took issue with the then commonly held belief that customer loyalty could be driven by a concerted focus on “delighting” customers.

“ The only trend to focus on is minimising customer effort ”

Rather, they asserted, any and all initiatives targeted at reducing the amount of effort required for a customer to deal with an organization would provide a far stronger foundation for sustained and positive business outcomes.

Others have put forward similar views. For example, Professor B.J.Fogg of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, has long advocated the importance of ease of action in human-to-computer design.

Put “hot triggers in the path of motivated people” is his mantra, meaning work with the natural laziness of human adults and make action as easy as possible. The truth is that ease-of-action matters in an interactive world. Not convinced? Let me demonstrate with a few examples.

“ Put hot triggers in the path of motivated people ”

Take the recently announced Shopping ads on YouTube. Now any video on YouTube is potentially ‘shoppable.’ You could be watching a ‘how to’ video on creating a particular make-up look, and a simple tap on an icon in the top right hand corner of the video will reveal a selection of products related to what you’re viewing on screen.

A tap on one of those and you’re on the relevant product page of a retailer’s site. No more trying to recall product names and googling them – a couple of stages have been neatly removed from the process. And as any ecommerce manager worth their salt will tell you, every click in the process loses you 40% of your potential customers.

Apple Pay is another prime example. It’s recently been introduced on these shores but is already gaining traction in the US – used by 14% of eligible credit card holding households.

YouTube Shoppable Video

Why? Because it’s so easy. Want to pay for something in an Apple Pay-enabled app? No need to go hunting round the house for your wallet or purse, taking out your credit card and tediously typing in your details.

Instead, just tap ‘Buy Now’, select Apple Pay, hold your thumb over your iPhone’s Touch ID and it’s all done. The only additional complication when using Apple Pay in store is holding your iPhone or Apple Watch over the in store NFC card reader. The path from desire to action has never been this painless.

However, whatever we can observe and play with today is really only just the beginning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next great battlefield in the tussle between the tech giants to make customer interaction with businesses and brands more effortless.

“ Apple Pay is already used by 14% of eligible credit card holding households in America ”

Google has integrated its latest foray into AI, Now on Tap, into Android Marshmallow. The idea is to make Google’s search functionality accessible on any part of your phone. But, it’s much cleverer than a Google search box popping up within a text message or IM – it’ll read the content of that message and present information related to it.

So, for example, your friend may have sent you a text inviting you to a certain restaurant. A long hold of the home button will enable Now on Tap and a Google panel will appear on your screen offering reviews of that restaurant, a map of its location and the option to launch an app on your phone that you can use to book it.

Of course, Apple was one of the first into the AI field with ‘Siri’ back in 2011, and they’ve not been resting on their laurels. The recent integration of Siri into the new version of Apple TV raises interesting possibilities. Now, talking to Siri can help you discover films and TV series to watch. How long before Siri will be recommending products for you to buy via your Apple TV?

“ How long before Siri will be recommending products for you to buy via your Apple TV? ”

And clearly Facebook isn’t going to get left behind. ‘M’ – a virtual assistant available via their Instant Messaging service – aims not just to answer any query but to take the relevant actions too, like a real PA would. So Facebook’s M won’t just show you local restaurants – it’ll make the reservation for you. No need to go to Google anything or even hit ‘Buy Now’ – just ask M to sort it out for you.

But the company that’s made the most strides in this field is IBM with its Watson supercomputer. This AI solution’s ability to understand natural language and provide relevant answers has enabled websites like North Face’s to experiment with the technology to make finding the right product easy.

No searching, and no need to filter through reams of irrelevant results – just ask the same questions you’d ask a shop assistant in store and the relevant products are displayed for you. Less time. Less clicks. Less effort. And Watson’s API is available to any developer.

Facebook are leveraging Oculus Rift

So when you’re preparing for your first Christmas 2016 plan meeting, ask yourself these questions:

How can I make my customers lives easier? How can I use the tools that the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook are equipping my customers with to smooth the path from interest to purchase?

If you can successfully answer those challenges, you’ll have next year all sewn up.

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