One of the best-known political catchphrases turned 30 this past year. In 1992, James Carville, a strategist in Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, wanted to boil down the importance of the struggling economy in voters’ minds with his now-famous mantra: “The economy, stupid.”
Since then, “It’s the (fill in the blank), stupid” has become an oft-used chestnut in American discourse. “It’s the ratings, stupid,” journalist Dan Rather once said during a rant about sensationalism in TV news. “It’s the bullpen, stupid,” sportswriters declare when a baseball team can’t lock down wins. And so on.
Simplicity: Key to Catering to Customers
When it comes to the challenges that companies face in catering to customers in today’s ultracompetitive, constantly evolving marketplace, I’d summarize the solution this way: It’s simplicity, stupid.
That’s easy to lose sight of in an age when retailers and others are striving to deliver “revolutionary,” “cutting-edge,” “exciting” or “thrilling” experiences to increasingly demanding consumers, with the additional burden of doing so across a complex web of physical, digital and "phygital" channels.
Not that companies shouldn’t be aiming for those qualities — of course they should — but it’s critical to remember that the question on customers’ minds usually is pretty basic: What’s the fastest, easiest and most effortless way I can get stuff done?
Get in, get out — that’s the experience people want most, regardless of the offering or channel.
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Brands That Simplify Purchasing Journey Likely to Retain Loyal Customers
Ten years ago, the Corporate Executive Board, a research firm now merged with Gartner, released an interesting study that found consumers feel overwhelmed by information and choices and really crave one thing — the simplest possible purchasing journey.
Brands that help consumers simplify their buying journey are 86% more likely to retain loyal customers and 115% more likely to be recommended to others, the study found.
The simplicity effect has only heightened in the years since. Brand strategy and design firm Siegel+Gale, in the ninth edition of its “World’s Simplest Brands” report issued in December, found that the pandemic permanently left people with an aversion to complexity and a willingness to pay a premium for simpler experiences.
According to the study, 57% of people are willing to pay more for simpler experiences. Seventy-six% are more likely to recommend a brand that delivers simple experiences, compared to 64% in 2018. Stocks of what the company considers the world’s simplest brands have outperformed the average of the major indexes by 1,600% since 2009.
Simplicity Leads to Fast, Frictionless and Happy Interactions
The power of simplicity in consumer behavior is rooted in science. The Simplicity Principle — traditionally referred to Occam’s razor (which would be a great name for a shaving brand), after the British philosopher to whom it is attributed — holds that the human mind is naturally biased toward simplicity over complexity.
Companies would be wise to keep these realities front of mind as they build their customer experiences. Customers don’t think in terms of a retailer’s omnichannel strategy or its cool new app designed to attract legions of average daily users, they just want fast, frictionless and happy interactions.
An example from my own life: My three children love a particular national fast-food restaurant, and we enjoy going there. The chain has installed electronic kiosks, and I use them to scroll through the menu and place and pay for orders. I find them convenient.
They could be better, however. You see, my kids always order exactly the same items. Imagine if I could walk up to the kiosk, scan a QR code on my phone and have the system automatically recall our preferences. That would make the kiosks simplicity superstars.
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The Key to Breathtaking Customer Experiences: Omnichannel Retail
When a company achieves the highest degree of not only simplicity but elegant simplicity, the effect can be breathtaking.
Consider, for example, Apple Pay’s integration with financial institutions. If your credit card is lost or stolen, when you order a replacement, the new number instantly is fed to Apple Pay on your smartphone, so you can keep paying for items before the new physical card arrives. And many recurring bill payments that use the card also are automatically updated.
Retailers in particular must make that kind of profound simplicity for customers their guiding philosophy as they design omnichannel experiences that integrate all the modern conveniences consumers expect, from BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) to the ability to check inventory via an app.
And, make no mistake, providing effortless simplicity is critical in each and every channel.
Take brick-and-mortar, for example. The latest evidence that people still love the in-store experience is a recent survey of 2,000 American shoppers by UserTesting and market research company OnePoll that found nearly two-thirds were considering heading to physical stores during the holidays, a tradition they didn't plan to skip.
The poll showed a nearly even split between consumers who prefer to shop online and in stores. A third planned to do both.
Simplicity Reigns Supreme: Accelerating Online Commerce Route to Success
Meanwhile, the online commerce boom keeps accelerating, with estimated sales reaching $257.3 billion in the second quarter of 2022 alone, according to government figures. Companies face a constantly rising bar for delivering an outstanding experience on their apps and websites.
And here come newer trends, such as phygital, which integrates virtual and real-world experiences to create more immersive, interactive and exciting customer experiences, and the metaverse, where people can shop using immersive technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality.
The routes to the customer keep expanding, but across all of them, a brand’s ability to keep things simple is and will remain its top differentiator.
Bringing the highest level of simplicity to its customer experience has become the smartest thing a company can do.
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