It won’t be long until we move from the current commercial market into one where our needs will be automatically met and there will be very little "buying" left. Retailers can prepare for the end of buying by focusing on a few key areas:
1. Form Your Ecosystem
At the moment, most products and services are too fragmented to survive automated buying. Survival depends on working as an ecosystem. The more a buying experience is fragmented, the more friction there will be and the more processes will slow. To prepare yourself for automated buying, start reaching out to other brands to create your own ecosystem.
The Chinese already understand this and offer fast and frictionless experiences. An example is the "everything app" WeChat, which is basically the operating system of Chinese society. It’s used for communication, gaming, paying, ordering food, hailing a ride-sharing car, and lots, lots more. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Facebook is looking to reinvent itself into an "everything" experience in a similar way. The social network recently announced that WhatsApp mobile payments will be launching in a few countries this year.
2. Earn Consumer Trust
A subscription model structure requires consumers to place their trust in a brand to complete the buying process for them. It could be for small things like coffee or shower gel, but it could also be big things like insurance contracts or holiday arrangements. This requires trust from the consumer. They'll need to know that they can count on you.
To earn their trust, it’s essential for brands to get it right. The algorithm needs to judge the needs and purchases correctly. If it sends a single person five bottles of shampoo per month, or if it orders a presidential suite at an expensive hotel for a middle-income family, it won’t be trusted, let alone gain customer loyalty.
3. Prioritize the Brand
Power branding will be vital in the new subscription era, even more than the offering or the interface. Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, says that whereas power branding used to convince you to buy the product, it's now something built into the experience of the service. To succeed, services have to be able to fulfill the brand’s promise. If they manage to do this, they'll see a flywheel where consumers continue to use the service. But if they don’t, consumers will simply walk away and not come back.
Contactless buying experiences are rising: cashier-less stores like Amazon Go, BingoBox, F5 Future Store, and EasyGo as well as unmanned restaurants from Jingdong and JD, mean that each day we’re getting closer to a future where the conscious act of buying is starting to fade. Over the next decade we will begin to see automated buying, the subscription economy, and personal artificial intelligence assistants will move between brands and the consumer, which will change their relationship in new and exciting ways.
Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s an award-winning author, and his book "Customers The Day After Tomorrow" is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com.
Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com