Convenience in retail

Want to drive online sales? Easy does it

  • Meg-5 (1).jpg
    Meg Buchanan
  • Sep 13, 2021

When it comes to driving online retail revenue and increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction, convenience is king. Here’s why. 

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Two years ago, I made the decision to sell my car and use my bike to get around instead.

I live in Denver, and while we are a relatively bike-friendly city, giving up my car wasn’t as easy as it would have been in cities with an extensive subway or elaborate public transportation. 

But for me, a digital native who purchases pretty much everything online, I saw a greater advantage to relying exclusively on an array of trusted digital brands to manage my life than to deal with the hassle and upkeep of owning a vehicle. 

After COVID-19 (and even before), I’m not the only one giving up the way things have always been done, in favor of a more digital, more convenient day-to-day. Why should I deal with lines at the grocery store when I can have my groceries delivered to my door in less than two hours? Why leave my couch to get something notarized when I can do so right from my phone? I can order a car, split the check at dinner, and do every aspect of my job straight from my electronic devices. 

So to me, it’s no surprise that nine out of ten consumers say they’re more likely to choose a retailer based on how much convenience they offer. Convenience gives me back more time in my day, which is a commodity that we could all use a little more of.

The case for convenience in retail

Like myself, many customers choose brands for the convenience they offer. We see this across the spectrum of a consumer’s relationship with a brand, from the services provided (on-demand ride requests, two-hour grocery delivery) to customer service support delivered (easy-to-use online chatbots, contactless returns) to security sign-ins through trusted apps like Facebook and Gmail. Convenience has quickly become a necessity most consumers can’t live without. 

In fact, more than 43 percent of consumers reportedly make online purchases based on convenience. It’s the same mentality for why I no longer have a car. Why sit in traffic, find a parking spot, stand in line to check out, sit in line to pay my meter, all when I can buy the item I want in seconds online and it’s delivered right to me (sometimes, even the same day)? 

With COVID-19, this trend just accelerated even further, with more than 50 percent of consumers spending more on convenience to get what they need. COVID-19 also gave “convenience” a sense of urgency with new pandemic buzzwords like contactless shopping, on-demand fulfillment, and inventory availability. With stay-at-home orders and social distancing in full swing, retailers pushed on digitally, resulting in a massive increase in payments made on mobile devices as well as a massive increase in delivery app downloads. COVID-19 didn’t start the convenience fire, but it certainly fanned the flames. 

This is why retailers should care.

When I sold my car, I had the mentality, ‘Well, I can always get another one if I have to.’ And as time went on, it became increasingly clear, I didn’t. The world has made it very easy to rely on technology to get what you need. And coincidentally, I’ve gotten very used to living a certain way that allows me to live without a car. 

Similarly, consumers have grown accustomed to a certain way of purchasing products and services online and as retail companies continue to up the ante of consumer convenience, customers will continue to expect this level of service moving forward. 

While the urgency of COVID-19 might have driven consumers online for fear of scarcity, the habits they created during the pandemic may very well stay long after COVID-19 is history. For example, the phrase 'contactless delivery’ may disappear, but the convenience of someone dropping your purchase at your door without having to interact with them, may not. 

As retailers prepare for a (hopeful) future where brick and mortar are open at full capacity and social distancing disappears, the convenience of online shopping will remain and retailers should continue to create opportunities to make their digital (and in-person) shopping experience as easy and seamless for their customers as possible. 

Convenience in retail goes beyond a drive-thru lane

Convenience has a bit of a bad rep in retail. Impersonal, fast, unhealthy, cheap. The new convenience isn’t about having the fastest check-out line or the most sterile grab-n-go store, it’s about customizing your customer’s experience to make their shopping both easy and personal. Here are three ways to do so: 

  • Use data to drive personalization: At the beginning of the pandemic, I lost my job. As I began canceling my memberships and subscriptions to certain brands, many asked why I was leaving but only one took my responses and did something with it. This particular brand sent me the product I was getting monthly for free with a personalized note sharing how sorry they were that I lost my job as well as a coupon code to come back when I got a new one. Using their survey data, they were able to reach me on a personal level and make it very convenient for me to return when I had the means to do so. Because of this gesture, when I got a new job, they were the first company I resubscribed to. Data, when used correctly, can show your customers how valuable they are to your business and remind them of the convenience you provide them in their lives. 
  • Offer variety but make it streamlined: We’ve probably all dealt with the frustrating experience of interacting with a customer service representative on the phone and having a completely different experience over chat or email. Offering multiple ways to get in touch with your business is a convenience but not connecting those channels is more of a nuisance for your customer than a luxury. Omnichannel communication is integral to a convenient customer service experience.  
  • Automation is your (and your employee’s) friend: There’s certainly a time and a place to interact with humans in a retail experience, but often involving a customer service agent too early wastes your customer’s time and costs you money. Instead, using technology to your advantage, you can set up a simple chat automation system that tells you why your customers are reaching out to you and save them time from being transferred from department to department. 

Want to learn more about how to improve your retail customer experience? Read our newest edition on all things retail.

Retail in 2021

Keep reading the full retail edition of The Current.

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Meg Buchanan

Meg Buchanan is a Colorado native, a Kansas Jayhawk, and a proud multi-tasking millennial. As Twilio's Content Marketing Manager, she has more than seven years of experience writing for both agencies and in-house brands on topics from healthcare to hospitality.