Battle for the first bite of the customer

By Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation, Salmon

Consumers, charged by their changing nature and behaviours, are becoming increasingly comfortable shopping via digital channels. In parallel to this, game-changers such as Amazon and Alibaba are putting new, innovative and enticing services on a platter. What we are seeing as a result is that the way in which brands and retailers now must interact with consumers has transformed.

As technology accelerates so do the expectations of consumers. It is incredible to think that just a year ago voice assistants or zero UI (user interface) devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home were only just gaining partial awareness. Now the screenless sensation looks set to be one of the most striking trends that the retail industry will see this year.

Brands have to be careful that the future isn’t one where the interface with the customer is no longer owned by them

As voice and gesture devices become more mainstream and brain-computer interfacing becomes a reality – purchasing with your mind is not as far off as we think – the way we search for, discover and select products is set for a revolution. The majority of organisations still think with a screens-first approach, with some still declaring to be “mobile first”.

However, as consumers increasingly transition to new interfaces, retailers and brands need to think about how to break through to their customers in a world of no screens. As it stands, technology giants have been leading the charge towards these new interfaces and, as a result, retailers and brands have to be careful that the future isn’t one where the interface with the customer is no longer owned by them.

It is for this reason that being aware of the growing ambitions of the “interface imperialists”, ambitious companies seeking to own every interface and touchpoint with the customer, is so vital. We are seeing a pocket of digital innovators attempting this and pushing brands further away from relationships with those customers. This trend can be largely attributed to Amazon because those who own the interface, own the customer. Once the customer is in tow, you have all their data and the future is then yours.

Gone are the days when it was about customer loyalty; it’s now about customer ownership. At the core of this ownership is the offer of a better, simpler, faster and more convenient service than a competitor. Customers are increasingly becoming loyal to service, not the brand, which we recently found to be true with 88 per cent of consumers.

Customer loyalty is becoming harder to come by. Even Amazon itself admits that customers are only loyal to Amazon to a point and when a better service is offered, they will go elsewhere. We are now seeing customers select which products and brands they buy according to the service on offer. This is what we call the “Amazon Prime effect” in full swing.

Even the most treasured and renowned brands will lose their place with customers if the process of acquiring them is not quick, easy and fitting for them. Service is now diluting the power brands once had. Ensuring they are the first past the post with customers is therefore going to become progressively more important in the battle for the first digital mile.

Brands cannot afford to sit back and allow the tech giants to fight over who gets the first bite of the customer. They need to think about how they drive customers directly to them, their products and their experiences.

To read more on the latest digital and e-commerce trends impacting retail and brands please download our 2018 Future Trends Report