From Amazon Go to the trial of a Sainsbury’s store without checkouts, the age of frictionless business transactions is upon us. Lost even within the confines of the traditional bricks and mortar retail outlet, that means many of the traditional brand touch-points are fast disappearing.
Amazon’s physical stores are on trial in the United States and the company has already registered the ‘Go’ name in the UK. Determined to get ahead of the game, Sainsbury’s SmartShop technology is being trialled at its Local Holborn Circus store in London.
On a personal and human level, we may all one day rue the losses of this day in terms of social interaction – no more conversations at the counter to savour as we leave stores without speaking to anyone, or stay home and shop online instead.
But there is an equally big price to pay for brands as they lose the tangible and in-person opportunities to reinforce the relationships that once equalled loyalty and returning custom.
More than ever before, brands must speak for themselves.
That’s why effective branding provides an opportunity to maintain your grip on custom in the age of frictionless consumer transaction.
The slow reinterpretation of the British High Street speaks volumes of the stakes. No business large or small is immune from the impact of the convenience of online shopping. What was seen as the impossible collapse of a High Street titan in Woolworth’s demise is no longer such a shock. Out of fashion and out of luck, British Home Stores could not survive the surge of digital commerce and Debenhams now looks to have succumbed to similar misfortune, announcing the closure of 22 stores.
Partly, many traditional businesses have been too big – or too slow – to respond to the demands of the modern age. Their physical propositions couldn’t keep pace with the needs of their consumers.
But for all the losers there are so many spectacular winners who have seized opportunities to engage with new customers via digital means alone.
Take catalogue giant N Brown, which once sold all of its merchandise via paper catalogues, and has transformed its business to become a digital retailer. In part, that has been achieved through branding that resonates more readily with the niche shopper profiles of its contemporary customers.
And there is proof that good branding pays in the digital space.
According to research compiled by Statista, the United Kingdom had the third largest e-commerce market in the world in 2015. The most recent UK governmental figures placed the value of UK e-commerce sales at £533bn. Meanwhile, B2B e-commerce sales via a website amounted to roughly £96.5bn British pounds in 2015.
E-commerce accounted for a 19 per cent share of total business turnover in the United Kingdom in 2015. As of 2015, roughly 80 per cent of UK internet users did online shopping, the highest online shopping penetration rate in Europe.
The shift from high street to online has only quickened in pace.
Some e-commerce is a continuation of the relationship consumers already had with major brands. Other relationships are brand new.
So what happens when there are no expansive showrooms, no opportunities to view, touch, taste and contemplate the goods on offer?
Instead, every single thread of an emerging brand’s persona is woven within its digital DNA – a metaphysical manifestation of the factors that set it apart from its competition, convey a call to action, and convert a browser into a buyer.
Companies like emerging North West giant The Hut Group, which has only ever existed within a digital world, show what happens with effective branding.
In how many ways can a brand’s intangible characteristics reinforce the air of desirability it seeks to reinforce?
What happens when the customers’ own doorstep provides the first physical encounter with the product and service?
How can brands seek to reinforce the stories their products tell when physical characteristics only play their part once a purchasing decision has been made, and the product or service has been delivered?
These are questions we’re well versed in answering, having helped numerous clients to maintain relevance in a rapidly evolving world.
With decades of experience in the field of conventional, then digital, branding, the team at Truth Creative has seen first hand the slow evolution of the environment that brands exist within.
Online and off, we excel at delivering outstanding brand experiences: devising engaging dialogue, managing strategic interactions and creating content that grows brands and delivers a return on investment.
Don’t want to lose your grip in the age of increasingly frictionless transactions and e-commerce? Get in touch. We design outstanding online experiences: engaging interfaces, thought-through user journeys and digital content that also helps brands to grow. And that’s the Truth.