How retailers can win by making things easier

| by Pat Bakey
How retailers can win by making things easier

The world is becoming more complicated. And technology is to blame.

We're more connected now — in 2013, 22 percent of us had smartphones, and that figure continues to grow. More than 1.7 billion people are on social networks, and within three years it will be 2.55 billion. That's a heck of a lot of tweets, snapchats and Facebook updates.

By 2020 more than 50 million devices will be connected to the Internet of Things. All of which results in a huge amounts of data. And that's what makes things complex — because we're struggling to keep up with information overload.

We've developed technology to make our lives better. But we've made some things so complicated that we don't always understand them. And it's having a detrimental effect on businesses. Two hundred of the world's biggest companies are losing over 10 percent of their annual profit — simply because of this added complexity.

So, how can we escape the complications that technology has created? Well, strangely enough the answer lies in… technology. Seriously. Go with me on this.

Because technology isn't really the problem — it's how we use it. We need to use technology more cleverly. We need to harness these advances to make things easier.

Making things simpler offers distinct advantages for retailers. The Global Brand Simplicity Index 2014 found that 38 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a simpler experience. And 70 percent are more likely to recommend a brand because it provides a simpler experience.

Online retailer Amazon has led the way in simplifying customer experience over the years. Smart search functionality, one-click shopping and next day delivery make online purchasing easier. It's no wonder, then, that they ranked second in the U.S. Simplicity Index, and 10th globally.

There's also a new breed of retailers making waves in the industry. The disruptors.

These disruptive companies are changing the way things work, by changing consumer expectations and delivering new experiences. And simplicity is at the core of their approach. They understand that consumers want to do things as quickly and easily as possible.

Taxi company Uber, for example, has made hailing a cab much simpler. Their innovative app uses GPS to track the location of a customer's phone, then sends the nearest available taxi to them at the push of a button.

Websites like are making food shopping easier and more interesting. The online retailer uses the data it collects to build up a picture of its customers' spending habits. It can then create a more personalized shopping experience, with targeted ads, offers and even recipe suggestions. The customer feels more valued and appreciated. And when their groceries are delivered, they feel good about the brand.

In fact, retailers of all kinds are seeing the potential of offering simplified services. offers hungry consumers an easy way to find and order takeaway food online (with firms like in the U.K. doing the same). Spectacle company Warby Parker offers a free "home try-on" service for their glasses. Customers have five days to try five pairs of glasses, before picking their favorite. So, there's less pressure than trying them on in store for 30 seconds before deciding. And they can get their friends' opinions, too.

Disruptors are finding ways to turn annoying experiences into more interesting, satisfying, simple transactions. And as the boom in wearable technology heats up, we can expect to see this trend continue.

As a retailer, you need to consider how you could make changes. Ask yourselves:

  • How hard do customers have to work to buy our products?
  • Are they constrained by a lengthy online or purchasing experience?
  • How could we make things simpler?

See where you can make changes. Offer customers an easier way of doing things. And you should see your profits go up and your brand loyalty increase. It really can be that simple.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Service, Technology

Pat Bakey
Pat Bakey is the Global Head of Consumer Industries at SAP, leading the Retail, Wholesale, Life Sciences and Consumer Products industries.

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