Why Retail Is A Work Of Complete Friction

Woman legs and shopping bags holding in hands.
SHARE
THIS



In this opinion piece, Steve Stoner (pictured below), founder and CEO of retail brand transformation agency Whippet, argues why retailers shouldn’t be striving for a totally frictionless shopping experience for customers.

Steve Stoner

The expression ‘frictionless shopping’ has been increasingly tripping off retailer tongues for the past few years. We are constantly being encouraged to deliver a more seamless experience for customers so they can be on their way to the next soy latte with barely a blink, but is a totally frictionless retail experience actually desirable for either customers or retailers?

If you break down a customer retail experience into three phases, things start to become clearer.

Phase 1: shopping

The word ‘shopping’ is often used to describe the entire customer process, but really, it’s only the part where customers are weighing up their options and making choices. It spans from the moment a customer recognises a need and that the need can be solved with a purchase. Depending on the product, this decision-making phase could last seconds, hours, days or months. For instance, I’ll decide in seconds, right there in the supermarket, that a steak can solve my need for a quick weekday dinner, while I may ponder for weeks over which new phone to spend a thousand dollars on.

Phase 2: buying

This is when the customer has made the decision, chosen the product and needs to make the financial transaction in order to own it. It’s the point of sale. The customer may pay with card, cash or even a bank transfer, but during this process the customer mindset has changed completely, from a consideration and decision-making mode into a functional, ‘getting the job done’ mode.

Phase 3: fulfilment

Basically, this is ‘how I get my stuff home’. Often overlooked, this is a crucial phase in a customer’s experience, especially in terms of overall retail brand experience. Whether the item is simply popped into a shopping bag or delivered directly, this is the last touch point of the customer’s journey, and because of this, it can be the most memorable. The wonderful, warm feeling of buying a new piece of furniture can easily be let down by a 16-week wait for it to be dumped on the doorstep by a surly delivery man.

As a customer, I want to be able to choose exactly how I want each of these phases to play out. I might want to shop and purchase in store but have my purchase delivered to my home, or I may want to shop online and pay and collect in store. Today, customers are demanding these options from every retailer and retailers are having to upscale their service offerings accordingly. If there’s only one way on offer from the retailer, it could be a ‘no way’ from the customer.

But what about the friction? In the buying and fulfilment phases of this process, less friction is highly desirable for the customer. They have made their decision and just want to get on with it, with as little hassle as possible. It is the retailer’s responsibility to make sure that payment systems are slick and delivery options are quick. But in the shopping phase, friction can be a positive influence, for customers and especially for retailers. Visual merchandising, point-of-sale marketing and store layouts are all designed to disrupt a customer’s journey and influence their decisions, to create friction, to slow them down.

There’s a good reason supermarkets often stock milk – a frequently purchased commodity item – at the back of the store instead of the front where it could be a ‘grab and go’ item. It’s the same reason IKEA has a long, looping, one-way runway that ensures you take in the entire IKEA collection as a series of room sets. This kind of friction creates the opportunity to influence consideration and expose more product to customers.

And let’s not forget that customers might also want a little friction in their retail experience – I know I do. I want to be surprised, to try new things, to go off the beaten track of habit purchases, just not always. And this is where retailers have to carefully walk the line. Too much friction at the wrong time, where it is significantly felt, can become an irritant to the customer and negatively influence their feelings towards the retailer brand. “Slow me down a little and show me something new” is just fine. “Slow me down a lot with no payoff” is not.

It is difficult to argue that the functional processes of buying and fulfilment shouldn’t be as friction-free for customers as possible. But rather than striving for a totally frictionless shopping experience, shouldn’t we be adding the right amount of friction, in the right places, to deliver a totally amazing shopping experience?

Latest News

Ipsos Appoints Ex-Nielsen Exec As CEO Of South East Asia
  • Media

Ipsos Appoints Ex-Nielsen Exec As CEO Of South East Asia

Ipsos chairman and CEO Didier Truchot has appointed former Nielsen executive Suresh Ramalingam as CEO of South East Asia. Ramalingam’s remit includes Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, with immediate effect. Ramalingam joins Ipsos from Nielsen, where he worked for more than two decades in various leadership roles covering the Middle East and Africa, South East […]

adblock popup web banner concept. isolated vector
  • Opinion

How To Reach The Unreachables

The unreachables may sound like the Indian caste system but, as you'll learn here, it's some newfangled marketing term.

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Instagram Video: We Are Living In A Vertical World
  • Co-Lab

Instagram Video: We Are Living In A Vertical World

The way people record, share and replay their lives has changed dramatically since the advent of Facebook-owned Instagram. Once a place where only static, filtered photos could be uploaded, Instagram now offers photo and video uploads, shopping features, direct messaging and several other tools serving users and businesses. However, for Instagram head of business Jim Squires […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Yes! It’s Virtual Reality Demystified
  • Co-Lab

Yes! It’s Virtual Reality Demystified

Virtual Reality has been a staple of science fiction for some time, Though, in terms of real-life application, the world is still coming to grips with what the tool can offer us. In recent years, tech experts, doctors, medical students and videographers have used the tool as a way of exploring worlds not normally accessed in […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Facebook Messenger: The New Age Of Communications
  • Co-Lab

Facebook Messenger: The New Age Of Communications

The unparalleled success of Facebook-owned Messenger can be pinned down to its ear to the ground approach with users. Consistently listening to its user base of more than one billion, Messenger’s ability to stay not only on trend but well ahead of it has allowed the app to become a global tool for communication; be that […]

Industry Generates A Record $10.5m For Social Impact
  • Media

Industry Generates A Record $10.5m For Social Impact

UnLtd, the media, marketing and creative industry’s social purpose organisation has announced a total industry contribution of $10.5m to social impact in FY18. The total value of funds, services, inventory and time donated by the media, marketing and creative industry increased by 21per cent compared to the previous financial year due to a growth in […]

Women In Media Profile: Danni Wright
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Danni Wright

We'd be headlining Danni Wright's Women in Media profile the "Wright stuff" if it wasn't utterly predictable and naff.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Posterscope Promotes Two
  • Media

Posterscope Promotes Two

Posterscope, Dentsu Aegis Network’s specialist out-of-home agency, has promoted Ryan Hedditch to the newly created position of national head of strategy and Samantha Summers to Sydney Group Business Director. In his new role, Hedditch is charged with driving the continual improvement and transformation of the Posterscope offering to clients and partners. Summers’ promotion will see her lead […]

Outbrain Accelerates Growth With APAC Promotions
  • Media

Outbrain Accelerates Growth With APAC Promotions

Native discovery platformOutbrain has announced several movements in its regional leadership team, with plans to make more new hires. This comes on the heels of two senior appointments it made in February, after closing a record year in the region with expansion into new markets. Yoav Tourel has been promoted to head of sales for […]

Clems Syd & Extra GUM Unveil YouTube Digital Stage
  • Media

Clems Syd & Extra GUM Unveil YouTube Digital Stage

YouTube EXTRA Gum has launched EXTRA Support Acts, a program created to support Australia’s up and coming musicians by transforming pre-roll ads on YouTube into a digital support stage. It has been created in partnership with Clemenger BBDO Sydney as creative lead, Universal Music Australia and BRING for talent and music strategy and content, MediaCom and YouTube. The […]

OMD Australia Tops 2018 RECMA Rankings
  • Media

OMD Australia Tops 2018 RECMA Rankings

OMD Australia has taken the top spot for Australia’s Number 1 media agency in size, according to RECMA’s 2018 ‘Overall Activity Volume Rankings’ report released last week. Additionally, the company was named first in profile classification with a dominant profile for the 3rd consecutive year, along with vitality ranking and structure ranking. Furthermore, OMD Australia was also named […]

Red Agency Bolsters Sydney Team
  • Media

Red Agency Bolsters Sydney Team

Judging by the image, it seems Red Agency may have had no staff whatsoever prior to this hiring spree.

Nine Appoints Editor For 9Honey
  • Media

Nine Appoints Editor For 9Honey

B&T's editor coincidentally spilled honey on his shirt while typing this. And by typing, we mean copy and pasting.

Y&R Sydney Scores Best&Less   
  • Advertising
  • Media

Y&R Sydney Scores Best&Less  

Y&R wins Best&Less amid rumours the clothing shop its changing name to 'Somewhat OK&Reasonably cheap'.