London, 2015, Victoria station, Monday morning. Victoria crowded as usual, rushing to get into a train. Checking Facebook. Today is Caroline’s birthday. Gosh. I will see her in the canteen today.Completely forgot it. Didn’t buy a gift. Media review all morning. She will hate me for ever. Mmmm solution, solution….yesterday Samantha was enthusiastically claiming that she tried out a service delivering everything anywhere in 90 mins. What’s the company name? Something related to speed, or space. Google help me please: yes! Speedee. They ship in 90 mins items from Harrods, Tesco, Sainsbury, Selfridges. Jo Malone, bingo! French lime blossom, her favorite. Shipped at office around 11 am. Wonderful. Office life saved, at least for today.
London, 2020, Victoria station, Friday morning. Finally week-end. What about a sweet surprise for Josh? that little gourmand. Tonight: Crème brûlée. I’m not sure if I do have all the ingredients. Let me check on “Shopper Pro app”. Milk, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla flavor. Virtual shops are getting more and more popular. It’s so convenient. Tesco did a pilot in a Korean metro station in 2011. Next was New York. London is the first in Europe. Here we are: smart phone, barcode reader. Supermarket wall, it’s how I call it.The pictures of all the purchasable items are on the wall. On the side of each image there is a barcode. You just have to scan it, select the quantity and it’s added to your basket. Paypal payment and Speedee delivering it. At 4pm fresh ingredients packed in a fancy Speedee box will be shipped, thanks to a drone, at my place. What’s now my Speedee score? Maybe I collected enough loyalty points to get the mistery gift box. Before discovering Speedee I was a “not frequent” online buyer: it was too painful waiting days for a delivery, often to be scheduled during office hours. Now I buy mainly online. Everything is few clicks away, just 90 mins to deliver and you get a “princess” treatment. Speedee l is my personal shopping assistant: taking care I do get on time what I ask for and advising about what is good for me. It was a life change: from shopaholic to Speedeeholic.
Manhattan 2025, Saturday morning. Snowing outside. Luckily next week I will be on holiday: Hawaii. I’m so excited! George and me together! New fancy clothes are a must. Still snowing, not the best weather for shopping out. Let me videocall Sophie, the Zara shopping concierge. She’s available 24/7. She’s showing me how I’d look with different summer skirts. The yellow one looks great on my avatar. Mmmm…what about the silk? online reviews? People are satisfied by the quality.Could I get it cheaper? Yeahh! saving 30$: this online coupons aggregator advised by Samantha is outstanding! Speedee can bring my new skirt here in one hour from now. WOW! -60 mins later, at home, in front of the mirror-. Not sure about this skirt… a video message to Michel and Stella, my fashionistas friends…no, both thumbs down. Ok I will return it, but I’d like to share why it didn’t fit the real me. User generated products are astonishing: it’s more than the classic 3D printed plastic sandals, Zara will give me the option to produce a tailored variation of the yellow skirt. And maybe I will find it inside my Speedee mystery gift box. It’s already lunch time, my interactive fridge doesn’t smile, it means that it is empty. If I wouldn’t be on holiday in few days I (more precisely my fridge) would ask to Speedee to deliver my usual food shopping list. Snowing is giving us a break: walk a bit, get a sandwich and check the new “MyStyle” temporary shop. It’s a new concept: both summer and winter collection, just one sample size for each item, you can try on and buy in 2 clicks. Speedee will deliver it at home. I’m in: ” Hi Marta, are you ready for Hawaii? ” a giant screen recognizes me? – ah! right I logged in with Speedee. The screen invites me to download the hyper-customized MyStyle apps: based on my preferences shared on social media,ecommerce sites, blogs from 2001 (my first eBay account!) will help me to find inside MyStyle shop what should perfectly fits to me. The apps scans as well all the items in stock and hundreds of ecommerce sites. Sandals, bag, sunglasses. Ok, I must stop, I’m out of budget. But how fancy is this red dress..and how expensive! Let me save it in the Speedee wish list, maybe I’ll get it for sales…wait, the screen is talking to me “Marta, we are pleased that you have chosen MyStyle for your fashion shopping. We noticed that you look stunning in the red dress you just tried on”- on the screen I see a picture of me in the red dress!- ” to welcome you as a new client we would like to offer you a special discount of 50 percent and 500 Speedee loyalty points…” Honestly, could someone ever refuse such a good deal? Speedee will deliver MyStyle items at home this evening.
How shoppers’ experience will change in the next 2 or 7 or 12 years?
The company named Speedee is a fictional company, a fake invented to help us to imagine how the shoppers experience will change in the near future. All the technology used by our fictional future costumers are already available and in few years will be ubiquitous and cheaper. Price transparency, geolocalization, hyper customization, user generated products, drones delivery, abundance of special deals will be the consumers’ dream come true.
And what about retailers? Will they be able to change as fast as the demanding shoppers expectations? In the future one of the biggest costumers experience improvements will have to do with the intersection between the real world and our digital streams. Did you just order pizza, buy a ticket to Paris, or give a Lego box to your kids? Your Facebook account -or whatever social media you will use will know. My car will connect, and so will my shoes, my smartwatch, and even my fridge. There will be reams of data and astonishing analytics potential. It won’t be only avoiding the traffic, or learning by someone else’s mistakes or pulling up my Jawbone score. It will be a ” global brain” where I can learn from the behavior of everyone (willingly shared).
And how we will buy? Through online pure players optimizing the delivery thanks to dedicated shipping companies? Or the physical shop will become a pick up point for your online order? Or we will experience a new way of shopping enhancing the fun part of the physical experience like tasting, touching, smelling, facilitating the most boring aspects like payment and delivery? Online purchase is growing steadily and retailers are rushing into mobile commerce ( Marks and Spencer reported 18% online sales growth overall in their 2012 report with mobile-enabled site sales up 200%) and planning to limit the number of physical point of sales (Argo, owned by Home Retail Group, announced that at least 75 of Argos’ 700 shops are likely to close over the next five years: Argos will be ‘reinvented’ as a “digitally-led business”, focusing on online sales and reducing use of it ’s catalogue). Probably the winning approach will be a multichannel one, focusing on the benefit brought by each channel. It seems that about 40 percent of shoppers walk out from the physical point if sales without finding what they want. In half of those cases, the product was in stock. Not being able to track orders, fear of credit card data stolen, lack of privacy, not possible to see the real item and on top complexities related to payment and shipment are just some of the reasons why people are still scared or unsatisfied with ecommerce.
Assuming that the full optimization of the shopper experience will consist of a meaningful integration between online and offline streams, how the delivery service could evolve?
The phone evolution could serve as referral. The traditional landline phone was a commodity, a useful service but given for granted. The advent of mobility was a big innovation: mobile phones tried to be sexy and build a lasting relation with consumers…but they were soon fully integrated in our daily communication,considered as interchangeable and not able to raise strong and lasting emotional feelings. They were gaining visibility mainly when causing issues. One day, in 2007, someone said he would be introducing a wide-screen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet device. But it wasn’t three products. It was one product. It was the iPhone: instantly obsoleting every other phone on the planet in every way that mattered. The famous Steve Jobs keynote was not only introducing a high technology product, many advanced smartphones were already available in the marketplace, it was creating desire for something that consumers didn’t know they needed. The revolution was to be able to turn a handy commodity into a desirable, sexy, iconic device that incites enormous loyalty and an almost zealotlike.
The delivery service is a step of the online shopper funnel that could easily fall into the trap of being considered as a commodity: it was introduced centuries before the advent of ecommerce. But it is still causing big frustrations. When disappointment it is turned later into satisfaction, the feeling of gratification and pleasure is peerless. Offering a service that is much faster it’s already a first step out from commodities: a brand changing people lives making the service a little bit better or fun and substituting disappointment with gratification, it’s starting to create a strong emotional connection. Be faster it’s a powerful service optimization, but is an unique differentiator or a disruptive conceptual innovation.Similar to what happened to mobile phones market, it could be victim of commoditization. To build his unique value, the hype of the service should be fully integrated in the marketing platform that is part of the service itself. Loyalty mechanisms, activation, added and premium services shouldn’t start from the moment you buy your item, but from the moment you receive your Speedee package at home. The packaging is a strong physical touch point that could deeply enhance a branded experience, built to be irresistible in its appeal.
The company able to turn the frustration of the online transaction into a smooth and easy purchase experience, to create a strong emotional connection finding his space in the renewed and integrated purchase funnel, able to own a unique and strong differentiator, will have the chance to become not only a love brand but a cultural icon.