Innovation and Delight: How to Break Away from the “Effortless” CX Pack

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“Good night Clarence I had a truly w o n d e r f u l evening,” Alabama said on the steps of her front porch on a beautiful August evening.

They had just had a lovely dinner at a fancy restaurant and then enjoyed some live music afterward. The full moon glowed on the couple as cicadas quietly chirped in the distance.

Clarence looked down nervously, anticipating this first date moment of truth and carefully planning his next move. He gathered his courage and his breath and then went for it.

“Alabama?” Clarence stammered as he looked deeply into her eyes.

“Yes, Clarence?” swooned Alabama.

“On a scale of zero through ten, how likely would you be to recommend this date to a friend or relative?”

Sound ridiculous? It is, yet we subject our customers to this kind of non-thinking metric abuse much more often than we should.

That’s not to say measurement isn’t important. It is and is largely responsible for me making my mortgage payment and beer budget for the last 30 years. However, so much time and energy is spent on measurement, I have concluded that most Customer Experience (CX) programs are lacking something else very important.

In Praise of Measurement

One of my favorite management gurus, Peter Drucker, was reputedly fond of saying “only what gets measured, gets managed.” And managed the customer experience has been over the last 50 years, all too often focusing on metrics vs. true outcomes. Most CX programs (many of which are really Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs) focus on asking customers about their experience in very specific terms. They ask how promptly you were greeted or how well was the representative able to answer your questions or resolve your issue. As such, that level of detail has been often the main focus.

While there is a place for the details, perhaps we are being too atomistic and reductionistic in our measurement. I have conducted thousands of ‘driver analyses’ where the independent variables were aspects of the experience (e.g., prompt services, comfort of blah blah blah) where the dependent variable was some form of “overall experience” or “would recommend”. Most of these models come up short on explaining the variance in these outcome measures, even with the benefit of mono-method measurement bias. Why is that?

Attributes vs. Experiences

Imagine for a moment designing a traditional VOC measurement to evaluate your partner or romantic interest. You might provide a rating on attractiveness, witty repartee, intellect, and so on. Does such an approach really provide a good measurement of your interest and attachment to that person? Would it be predictive in continuing the relationship? Probably not. In that scenario you are measuring attributes of your romantic interest, not the experience that you had with them and what makes you look past dirty dishes in the sink or dirty socks left on the floor and instead remember those piña coladas together at O’ Malley’s.

The truth is, most VOC programs are compliance-driven and operate just one rung above mystery shopping programs. While those mystery shopping programs can tell you, with some certainty, is if the bathrooms are clean, and today’s orthodox VOC program will tell you if that cleanliness was pleasing to the customer. What neither of them does is tell how to create an amazing memorable experience in the first place.

Revisiting “Quality”

Noriako Kano (1984) addressed this issue nearly forty years ago with the method now known as the “Kano” model. Building on Herzberg’s (1959) two factor model, he had four “satisfaction drivers”: must-be, attractive, one dimensional, and indifferent. 

“Must-be quality” or “Basic Needs” are those things that we are disappointed by if they are not there (such as a car not turning on). They do nothing to make us love the experience if it is there. They are expected. “One dimensional” quality as known as “Satisfiers” have a linear relationship between satisfaction and the attribute. For example, as price decreases satisfaction increases. “Indifferent” drivers are those that are largely irrelevant to the customer and so, therefore, has little influence on consumer behavior (loyalty or otherwise). The final dimension is what Kano called “Attractive Quality”. It has also been referred to as “delighters”, these are the unexpected things that happen that make the experience exciting.

Given “basic needs” are satisfied, the “delighter” measurement dimension was seen as the holy grail amongst VOC folks. While you are unlikely to revisit a hotel with no electricity and a lukewarm shower, it is hardly going to make you want to come back just because when you turn the light switch on it works and the water in the shower is warm enough (“must bes”). Also, you can only get the pillow and sheet so soft and get the price so low (“satisfiers”). So “delighting” customers became all the rage. But the measurement of this became somewhat of a challenge.

VOC’s Eldorado…

Delight is after all, by definition, undefined so you can’t exactly put it on a survey. It’s that surprise that you didn’t expect. Some folks tried just measuring it directly, but that tends to be an awkward method and probably does not capture the true essence of delight. For some reason asking, “On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being undelighted and 10 being truly delighted, how delighted was the experience today?” doesn’t seem to cut it. Others have tried a more organic approach by asking open ends about “most memorable” experiences to limited success.

The true problem in measuring delight in this fashion is that it cannot be measured at the atomistic level nor should it be measured as an attribute, but as an experience as a whole. In fact, I don’t think you can directly measure “delight” at all. You must create delight, not be preoccupied with measuring it. While traditional CX metrics have a critical role in assessing the success of these experiments, as an industry we have become too dependent on fixing problems versus creating experiences. You’re not going to frictionless your way to creating memorable “peak” experiences. While you could probably capture what happened via voice to text and text analytics, the only way to measure it really, is as a behavioral intention or business outcome.

Designing Experiences

As an industry we need to put less emphasis on compliance and incremental improvement and more focus on experience design. Sure, we still need to monitor how the experience is going, but are you going to really differentiate your brand by having really clean bathrooms or really soft pillows. At some point, there are diminishing returns. We need to think bigger.

Thankfully, traditional product development research techniques combined with more human-centered design thinking approaches can move us from compliance to creation. It starts with understanding the current customers (and their manifest and latent needs) and their current customer journey. While we can look at the current journey and say “where can we reduce ‘friction’ points?” that will only get us so far. Are you going to really win people’s hearts by spackling over annoyances? You may well just be created a frictionless but also boring experience.

In their excellent book The Power of Moments the Heath Brothers (2017) talk about this concept extensively. They talk about ‘building peaks’ rather than ‘fixing potholes”. The idea is that customers remember the awesome stuff and that is paramount in creating amazing experiences (and returning customers). They don’t remember the long lines, humidity, and bad smells of Disneyland, but do remember the 16 minutes on the Pirates of the Caribbean or the 3 minutes riding Space Mountain. Experiential time, it turns out, is not proportional to the actual time. 

Of course, no amount of roller coaster rides or pictures with costumed actors will make up for the spoiled chili dog that made you wished for mercy from above, but the point is, just removing ‘friction points’ makes Jack a very dull boy. The Heath brothers provide many fine examples of reimagining the experience from the first day on the job journey or the Popsicle Hot-Line at the Magic Castle Hotel where guests can order a popsicle free of charge delivered on a silver plate. That’s where experiential magic lays.

This really is the essence of moving us forward in customer experience. We should focus on creating, prototyping, and deploying minimal viable product experiences rather than getting mired down in the measurement of atomistic attribute benefits of products and services. There is a larger Gestalt here.

Where to Start?

This can start with what Farhad Manjoo (2003) of the Wall Street Journal calls the Andy Rooney business plan. It goes like this: “first, find the most annoying, obvious problem that millions of people deal with every day. Then ask if things really have to be that way.”

If you pay attention, these opportunities are everywhere.

  • Does landscaping equipment (i.e., leaf blowers, etc.) need to be so loud?
  • Why is health care and insurance in the United States so bewilderingly complicated?
  • Why do we need professionals to help us with taxes?
  • Why do we need to drive to a giant warehouse and go down aisles to put a can of beans in our cart that are identical to 50 other cans of beans on the shelf?
  • Why do I need to drive to work every day, only to sit behind a computer most of it?
  • Why does higher education have to be a pursuit where the professor lectures and the students listen?

Sweat the Small Stuff

Changing a classroom and changing an organization are magnitudes of scale different. If you are feeling like experiential design is a monumental task requiring immediate large scale organizational change, let me allay your concerns. While organizational commitment to change is a pre-requisite for improvement, these changes can be made over time. Large scale change needs to be made in a series of boot-strapped successes (or at least learnings) building on one another.

Second, little things can have a big impact. An unexpected box of chocolates or 6 pack of local beer for hotel or Airbnb guests can create an inexpensive and memorable surprise for guests. A cook inviting a young aspirational chef for a quick tour of the kitchen in an upscale restaurant, or perhaps even the wink of an eye from a professional athlete to fan can make a huge impression. You can’t necessarily plan all of these experiences, but you can select, train, and empower your employees to do so. Experiences aren’t necessarily designed; they are, many times, improvised with customers in a shared experience.

Learn by Doing

While a bias for experimentation is important there are circumstances where that proposition is too risky. Funerals, weddings, and emergencies are probably not good times to experiment with new concepts ‘live”. In these cases, or if you simply don’t want to rush into just “doing”, you can adopt a more conservative approach by conducting concept testing first. Good ole fashion experimental design and storyboarding can go a long way in ironing out the kinks of a new way of doing something and mitigating the risk with customers.

While traditional CX metrics play a critical role in assessing the success of these experiments, as an industry we have become too dependent on fixing problems versus creating experiences. You’re not going to frictionless your way to creating memorable “peak” experiences. We need to figure out where those underlying needs and desires are and then use our creativity to enable and create experiences that keep customers coming back again and again.

References

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2017). The Power of Moments. Simon & Schuster.

Herzberg, Frederick; Mausner, B.; Snyderman, B.B. (1959). The motivation to work (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley. 

 Kano, N., Nobuhiku, S., Fumio T., &; Shinichi, T. (April 1984). Attractive quality and must-be quality. Journal of the Japanese Society for Quality Control (in Japanese). 14 (2): 39–48. 

Manjoo, F. (2013). Behind the Best Innovations: Obvious, Annoying Problems. The Wall Street Journal, Oct 9, 2013. Accessed from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304500404579125131894144044

20 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Dave, thanks for your insightful article. I especially agree with you that “as an industry we have become too dependent on fixing problems versus creating experiences.”

    However, before COVID-19, pursuing an effortless experience was a mega trend in the CX industry. After COVID-19, this trend is accelerating: if you aren’t “fast and easy,” customers probably won’t buy from you. You’ve no business at all.

    My question is: how can the company deliver your suggested peaks when customers’ purchasing decisions are predominately determined by how “fast and easy” – effortless – of an experience is?

  2. Hi Sampson! Thrilled you read the article. Short answer: I think you have to do both to grow. Doordash is pretty easy and people love it. What they don’t like is if 1) they take too long and 2) stuff is missed in the order. If you don’t get the ‘fundamentals’ of your business, you are out of business. However, what differentiates all these delivery services? Do you really care if you use Doordash, UberEats, BiteSquad, or the dozens of other delivery services? I don’t. What ever is cheapest, fastest, and has the best UX wins the day for me and I think millions of others. Now imagine one of these services did something different. Maybe something as simple as a loyalty program, or tie-in with environmental issues (all vehicles are hybrids or EVs), or social issues (every $1 spent is 20 cents toward food pantry), or even if the drivers are all out of work artists who might serenade with a song, play a tune, or recite a few lines from Shakespeare. Now you have an experience rather than a commodity. Now people have something that is memorable rather than forgetful. I think you wrote a bit about this as well…though i think your take was more along the lines of making customers do a little work (expend effort)…thanks again for your thoughts!

  3. Hi Dave and Sampson (BTW Sampson, I was on one of your workshops about 8 years ago).

    I believe the consumer is polarising in brand engagement between commodity relationships vs experience relationships. Digital for speed and access has been great for them, but only for brands they don’t particularly want ‘a relationship’ with. In fact their relationship is with the interface, not the brand. However, they ‘miss’ experiences in the broadest sense of the word with brands they want to engage with – such as providing an immersive experience, something learnt, a brand that matches their social purpose, brands that they value a continuous relationship with – such as a health or fitness, co-creation brands, and so on and perhaps several of such elements combined).

    As AI and ML and IoT become ubiquitious and consumers increasingly use intelligent personal assistants to shop and organise their lives, polarisation will increase. Experience brands will dominate but there will be fewer per customer. In this sense the consumer is the disruptor – ironically, using technology to disrupt brands. Brands that adopt tech with a human element (3d printing, AR and VR, digital/brick and mortar mix, a human interjection at appropriate points) will be favoured.

    And it’s not about continuous engagement either – I’m an Apple fanatic but don’t care for Apple continuously engaging with me – I engage with them when I choose too, on my terms, when I need them.

    Interesting debate.

  4. Dave, thanks for your nice words. Doordash is a good example. If I understand you correctly, then: “fast and easy” is becoming a necessary condition for an effective experience; but “effortless” alone is just a commodity, it is “effortless+” (e.g. tie-in with environmental issues) that created memorable experiences. Great perspective!

    I think the article you mentioned is “Stop Trying to Eliminate Customer Effort” (https://customerthink.com/stop-trying-to-eliminate-customer-effort/). What I call ‘customer effort’ is ‘customer pain point’. For instance, by allowing those Good Pains which don’t reflect IKEA’s brand values – more DIY services and fewer staffs for on-site support – a substantial amount of resources could be saved to further enhance their Branded Pleasures: inexpensive prices. The existence of Good Pain is to support Branded Pleasure.

    You said, “I think you have to do both to grow.” Take McDonald’s and Starbucks as an example. The brand promise of McDonald’s is closely-related with “fast and east” while Starbucks is about The Third Place. It’s perfectly fine for McDonald’s to deliver an “effortless+” experience. But how do you think Starbucks can accommodate both “effortless” and The Third Place?

  5. Michael, thank you for letting me know and hope you enjoyed my workshop.

    I like your concise descriptions: commodity relationships vs experience relationships, and commodity brands vs experience brands. I also like what you call the ‘relationship’ with Apple: “I engage with them when I choose to, on my terms, when I need them.” This reminds me of Amazon.

    “Amazon accused of treating UK warehouse staff like robots” (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/31/amazon-accused-of-treating-uk-warehouse-staff-like-robots) and “Amazon Working Conditions: Urinating in Trash Cans, Shamed to Work Injured, List of Employee Complaints” (https://www.newsweek.com/amazon-drivers-warehouse-conditions-workers-complains-jeff-bezos-bernie-1118849) reported by The Guardian and Newsweek respectively.

    And purchasing on Amazon.om is so convenient that its rivals can’t match it, and customers can’t find any comparable substitutes.

    In your opinion, is Amazon a commodity brand or an experience brand?

  6. Interesting question, Samson.
    I start the answer with definitions:
    commodities, by definition, are essentially interchangeable (examples: orange juice, gas for the car, spreadsheet applications, a telco service)
    brands, by definition, have an irrational value, perceived worth over preference, an emotion – they are culturally woven into our social fabric (Starbucks, Coke, McDonalds).

    Then, we must recognise Speed, Simplicity, etc are in themselves experiences – as long as they remain differentiated by that experience. If you could replace Uber with a copycat Uber v.2 would we remain loyal to Uber v1? In the long term unlikely if v.2 was cheaper. Amazon are a more difficult construct – they are now sticky through brand equity , scale, visibility, etc. They built the brand on speed and simplicity but are much more than that now (think Prime). I don’t like Amazon (price gouging, market control, poor employee relations) but I use them (simplicity, convenience). Give me an identical brand that has their scale and convenience (however impossible that would be now) – I would switch. So to answer your question: Amazon certainly provide preference, one form of loyalty. Emotion? No. But do they have an irrational value to us now, Yes, So I don’t think we can call them a commodity brand, they are an experience brand even though I don’t like it when i use them!.

  7. Hey Sampson,

    Honestly in the case of both Starbucks and McDonalds it should be both memorable and effortless. The act of ordering what you want should be easy if you are in a hurry. The act of exploring new flavors and offerings should be fun if the customer is so inclined. Starbucks should have efficient, but also friendly and familiar service for customers (we regularly chat with Stacey our barista at our local Starbucks). You better make sure you include the french fries in the drive thru order at McDonalds, but you better have some tasty burgers! McDonalds might be a good example of going too far on “effortless” emphasis. While it is fast and easy, is it a place that any adult looks forward to going to as an ‘event’? McDonald’s seems to realize this and is injecting more ‘humanness’ into their experience…not sure if this will do the trick, but an indicator they may be thinking along the same lines… https://www.zdnet.com/article/mcdonalds-customers-are-in-for-a-very-big-surprise-can-they-cope/

  8. Michael,

    Really interesting thoughts. I agree. Most of the time customers want to be left alone and not be hassled with follow ups news letters and ‘communities’….until they don’t want to be left alone. It’s being “attentively available” which is the ticket. As for ‘effortless” vs. “experiential”….i think it most often an ‘and’ rather than the a ‘or’ and those boolean are very much contingent upon the customers needs in that moment. Thank you for reading and contributing. Interesting stuff.

  9. Interesting question, Samson.
    I start the answer with definitions:
    commodities, by definition, are essentially interchangeable (examples: orange juice, gas for the car, spreadsheet applications, a telco service)
    brands, by definition, have an irrational value, perceived worth over preference, an emotion – they are culturally woven into our social fabric (Starbucks, Coke, McDonalds).

    Then, we must recognise Speed, Simplicity, etc are in themselves experiences – as long as they remain differentiated by that experience. If you could replace Uber with a copycat Uber v.2 would we remain loyal to Uber v1? In the long term unlikely if v.2 was cheaper. Amazon are a more difficult construct – they are now sticky through brand equity , scale, visibility, etc. They built the brand on speed and simplicity but are much more than that now (think Prime). I don’t like Amazon (price gouging, market control, poor employee relations) but I use them (simplicity, convenience). Give me an identical brand that has their scale and convenience (however impossible that would be now) – I would switch. So to answer your question: Amazon certainly provide preference, one form of loyalty. Emotion? No. But do they have an irrational value to us now, Yes, So I don’t think we can call them a commodity brand, they are an experience brand even though I don’t like it when i use them!.

  10. Michael, thanks for your explanation. I believe that now I have a better understanding of your definition of commodity brand and experience brand.

    Aligning our discussion with the theme of this article “Innovation and Delight: How to Break Away from the “Effortless” CX Pack.” You said Amazon is an experience brand even though you don’t like Amazon when you use them.

    Do you think that based on their effortless experience, Amazon is doing the right things about “innovation and delight”? In order to become the experience brand that customers like when they use it, what else can they do?

  11. Dave, thank you for continuing to discuss and refer to the article. I do agree that McDonald’s should be both memorable and effortless. Because whenever customers want to enjoy a “quick and easy” meal, they will think of McDonald’s.

    I also agree with you that Starbucks should be memorable, but I’m not sure if I agree that they should be “effortless.” Yes, making things easier and faster for customers is always preferred. But it does not always mean you have to drive an “effortless” experience. The consequences of pursuing “effortless” can be severe and may run counter to the Starbucks brand promise and core competitiveness. For example, Starbucks baristas say they are more strained than ever because of an uptick in orders coming from the mobile app and drive-thru. See “’They’d rather us be machines’: Starbucks baristas reveal the worst parts of working there” (https://www.businessinsider.com/worst-parts-of-working-at-starbucks-2017-5).

    In addition, when price-conscious companies like McDonald’s become more humane, and service-centric companies like Starbucks become more digital, will brands eventually become more homogenized and less differentiated?

  12. Hi Sampson,
    Interesting observations and perhaps exercises in the “grass is always greener”. That being said, I do believe that companies that can master both contingent upon the desires of the customer will win. Here’s a basic scenario: Say you in a nice restaurant and eating a nice meal. Young waiters tend to repeatedly run over and fill up your glass and interrupt conversation to check in. While certainly attentive…it is too attentive. Now imagine I just order a very hot bowl of Vindaloo and I have 1/5 of a glass of beer left. I would sure like a re-refill as soon as possible. It’s knowing when to automated and when to be human…Cybernetic CX. IMO, I think AMEX does a really nice job of this. They have an easy UX which you can accomplish most self service functions without having to deal with a rep. However, if you need a rep for a more complex issue, you can reach them almost always immediately. Fully automated experiences are forgettable ….force interaction with well meaning but doting reps can be annoying when you just want to get things done. Perhaps a balance contingent upon customer needs in the moment.

  13. Dave, thanks for the pause during the Chinese New Year holidays. I wish you and your family good health in the year of Ox.

    At the beginning of our discussion, you expressed that “fast and easy” is becoming a necessary condition for an effective experience; but “effortless” alone is just a commodity, it is “effortless+” (e.g. tie-in with environmental issues) that created memorable experiences. Just now, you explained that “effortless+” is about “effortless plus human interactions at the right time and occasion with the right people.”

    Suppose both McDonald’s and Starbucks are listening to your advice and delivering the “effortless plus” experience. The fact is: Starbucks’ coffee tastes no better than McDonald’s’ or McCafé. See “McDonald’s McCafé beats Starbucks in taste test” (https://www.qsrweb.com/articles/mcdonalds-mccafe-beats-starbucks-in-taste-test/), and the price of Starbucks is much more expensive than McDonald’s and McCafé.

    When a customer is in a hurry, she might think of McDonald’s; when a customer is price sensitive, he is likely to visit McCafé. When both companies are delivering the experience of “effortless plus human interactions at the right time and occasion with the right people,” what distinguishes Starbucks from McCafé, and what is left in the “Third Place” to attract customers: their better in-store decorations?

  14. Hi Sampson,
    Same to you and your family and thank you for continuing the discussion.

    Interesting. I guess I would say that while effortless is effortless (easy is always easy), the “+” is where the brand is…and where the differentiation is. Let’s take hospitality as an example the “W” and the Hyatt Regency are both very nice hotels. Check in is easy, reservations are easy, and in general they have effortless down. They are also both very nice, the staff is friendly, food is good, and the maid service goes the extra mile. However, they offer a different experience. The “W” is much more of a hipster scene while Hyatt much more ‘traditional luxury’. W has house music, dim lights, and guys and gals with trend haircut, piercings, and tattoos. Hyatt is more likely to have staff impeccably dress lots of light, polished marble floors, and overstuffed pillows. Much the same could be said for McDonalds and Starbucks. While on the surface they are both providing coffee….but their experience is much different. As local chain of coffee houses here was quoted (7Brews), “Drinks are a byproduct of what we sell, it’s all about the experience”. All good experiences are not the same…which makes them memorable and that’s where the differentiation is…https://customerthink.com/solving-the-cx-conundrum-how-to-minimize-chaos-maximize-humanness/

  15. Dave, remarkable concept! Except for those things that contribute to brand differentiation, the rest should be as easy as possible. The examples of “W”, Hyatt Hotels and 7Brews you cited fully support your “effortless +” concept, which makes a lot of sense.

    I just want to clarify: the “things” that contribute to brand differentiation, in my opinion, should also include those efforts and frictions that support brand differentiation. For example, a barista can interact with customers at a reasonable time. Think about your regularly chats with barista Stacey at your local Starbucks. Inevitably, the next customer after you will have to wait longer than she waited in McCafé.

    On that ground, IKEA’s DIY service and Ryanair’s lean policies should also be tolerated. Because through these efforts and frictions – IKEA can produce cheap furniture that everyone can afford and Ryanair offers the lowest ticket prices – helps differentiate the brand, I think.

    Your thoughts?

  16. Samson,
    You ask ‘what else can (Amazon) do”?

    I think they are already ‘doing’ it. They are the most innovative e-commerce retailer in the world. Amazon Lockers (pick up delivery points). Fire TV for non-Amazon content like Netflix, Hulu and instant access to over 200,000 movies and TV episodes available a la carte. Amazon Smile to create a simple way for customers to support their favorite charitable organizations every time they shop. Mayday re-imagines on-device tech support. Tap Mayday, and an Amazon expert will co-pilot you through any feature by drawing on your screen 24×7, 365 days a year – with an average response time of only 9 seconds on their busiest day, Christmas. Pretty impressive. Not to forget Prime, the reverse-loyalty programme where customers pay in advance for more benefits, with Prime members buying nearly double per customer annually than non-prime members. Amazon go way beyond being ‘effortless’ – they innovate ‘effortless’.

    This is what makes them sticky versus the thousand of other e-commerce sites that sell stuff but are all a sea of sameness. Yet I completely agree with you – Ryanair succeed not just because they are ‘cheap’ (often, nowadays, they are not versus legacy airlines) but because they are totally authentic, (O’Leary thrives on it) and manage perceptions well – if anything, under promising and over delivering. They understand the trade-off between price and a stale sandwich and the bottle of water legacy airline offer – airlines who spend millions advertising creating perceptions of luxury.

  17. Michael, thanks for continuing the discussion. And well said: “Amazon innovates ‘effortless’”. I may quote it in my future written works!

    Also thanks for providing so many examples of what Amazon has been doing trying to become the experience brand that customers like when they use Amazon.

    But why do many people like you still dislike Amazon when they use them? Does the customer have some concerns (such as what you said: price fraud, market control, bad employee relations) more important than “fastest, easiest and cheapest”? Will one day these concerns become so important that customers no longer support Amazon BOTH in terms of attitude and behavior?

  18. Samson, I think we’re in early stage shift in consumer thinking, one that will increase in the future.
    Consumers are becoming 2 personas – both a ‘consumer’ and ‘citizen’. It’s most significant in Gen Ζ, less in Millenials, but these two demographics will soon be the bulk of future B2C customers. The increasingly conscious consumer. And, indeed, the disruptive consumer (I talk this and innovating effortless a lot in my podcast). I know some shoppers who refuse to use Amazon now; others – like me – currently put aside our concerns versus ease of shopping. For now. I think that’s partly why Amazon need to constantly ‘innovate easy’ – if we had a choice of another Amazon, one more socially responsible, I would shift my business even at a cost premium. Do you agree that the consumer shift is happening?

  19. Michael, you asked a difficult question. Let me explain why in my last conversation with Dave Fish in this post.

    I believe Dave and I agree that “Except for those things that contribute to brand differentiation, the rest should be as easy as possible.” However, when I say that the efforts and frictions that support brand differentiation should be allowed, e.g. IKEA’s DIY service and Ryanair’s lean policy. Dave didn’t respond. His hesitation may be because he believes the customer doesn’t want to suffer any pain point.

    Similarly, slower, more efforts and expensive are pain points. When customers (regardless of generation) are accustomed to Amazon’s fast, convenient and cheap prices, it’s extremely hard for them to going back.

    According to CBS News, Amazon paid an extremely regressive tax rate 1.2% for its profits of over 10 billion in 2019, while Fortune 500 companies pay an average tax rate of 11.3% (see https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-taxes-1-2-percent-13-billion-2019/).

    IMO, this is one of the reasons why Amazon is so cash-rich and can make irresistible offers like Amazon Prime to customers; and treating warehouse staff like robots help drive their unmatched effortless experience. This makes your wish “if we had a choice of another Amazon, one more socially responsible” almost impossible.

    Yes, government antitrust regulations may help but they’re slow and weak. The ultimate antidote is the customer. If they don’t like the DIY service and lean policy and stop buying (their price is the inexpensive prices), then it’s certain that both IKEA and Ryanair will change – same as Amazon.

    The question is: Can customers stop being slaves to instant joy?

  20. Sampson, I totlly agree – another Amazon is impossible, not just for their super profits but their ‘moats’ of infrastructure protection – supply chains, logistics, data, etc. Impossible for anyone to catch up now.
    As to your question: I would suggest it’s both about the product and the type of consumer.

    I would happily buy online for a pair of socks but not for a suit, where I would want to feel it, try it, etc.
    No doubt there are others who would think/do otherwise.

    Interestingly, Amazon today launched their 1st cashier free supermarket in London (I think they already exist in the US) – where you use your Amazon app to enter the store, choose what you want, walk out, and Amazon bill you digitally. Another innovation. But my question is: why would they want to open a bricks and mortar when they are online kings, and most ‘experts’ are forecasting the end of the high street? I think I know the answer. it’s called a more immersive experience – one that digital can’t give.

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