If you think your company doesn’t have anything to do with the growing on-demand economy and that you’re immune to it, think again.
We all know about the tremendous growth in this sector. Uber is valued at over $50 billion. The value of online food ordering has surpassed phone ordering. And angel investors and VC firms have poured over $9 billion into this sector since 2010.
In addition to Uber, that money is going to companies like Instacart, Postmates, Hotel Tonight, Netflix, and Zeel, which are creating a dramatic shift in how consumers use a tap on a screen to request and order food, packages, lodging, movies, and even massages.
Good for them, you might be thinking. We sell white goods. We’re a lifestyle brand. We’re strictly bricks-and-mortar and location dependent. There’s not an on-demand disruptor in our vertical to worry about.
But that doesn’t matter, because something more fundamental is happening in commerce that will affect the relationship between your brand and your customer, no matter what business you are in.
Uber is rewiring your customer’s brain. Along with Amazon’s Dash buttons, and a growing ecosystem of “do-it-now” apps, Uber is turning consumers into on-demand thinkers, even when there is no on-demand product to choose from. It’s changing how consumers relate to every company.
Arguably, these new services are responding to a change in the customer that has already happened, but whether the chicken or the egg came first doesn’t matter. What matters is that your customers are done waiting for your website to load, for your product to ship, for your customer service representatives to pick up the phone, and for your cashiers to say, “Next in line, please.”
Your brand needs to think about how Uber is rewiring your customer’s brain or you risk losing the connection — and missing an opportunity to make new connections.
What does “Uberification” mean anyway?
Many label this the “Uberification” of the economy. What does this mean? It means value propositions are being built for customers who want their needs met instantly, frictionlessly, and with superb levels of customer service. These disruptive companies are taking advantage of the transition from an asset-based to access-based model.
That changes how people participate in this new sharing economy, and that’s a huge opportunity for nimble companies that can innovate to accommodate these shifts in consumer behavior.
The shift has already led to interesting partnerships between legacy brands and on-demand service providers. For example, Marriott partnered with LiquidSpace, an online platform that lets people book workspaces by the hour, to rent out unused meeting spaces. That’s a great example of optimizing resources to find new customers in the on-demand economy.
Another example in the same industry of meeting the on-demand behaviors of existing customers is the trend for hotels to have their own concierge apps.
Hotel Tonight, meanwhile, (which recently introduced its own concierge function) built its value proposition partly around steep discounts for last minute bookings but also on extreme simplicity. No scrolling through endless choices and comparisons. They promise it takes just three taps and a swipe on the phone screen, and you’re booked.
Aligning your brand with the on-demand mentality is less about gimmicks and more about making the experience of finding and using your products simple and frictionless. Everything from your product to your marketing and customer service must be reliable, seamless, and relevant to your customer’s needs.
Any brand can start adapting to the on-demand psychology with an agile, creative mindset that places customer experience at the center of the product development plan. That will help you get laser focused on innovation that matters.
Have you ever seen someone leave a full cart behind and walk out of the grocery store? Expect to see a lot more of it, in real life and online. Consumer impatience levels are at an all-time high. Last year, 50 percent of consumers told web performance firm Akamai Technologies Inc that if a website is slow to load, they’ll head to a different site to finish their task – and 22 percent said they’d never revisit the original site. If your website is slow to load, your lines are too long, or your ordering process is too convoluted, you’re losing more customers than you realize, and the on-demand psychology is going to make it worse.
Journey mapping is another key tactic in the transition to the on-demand mentality. It forces you to focus on human-centered design by making the customer the hero of the story.
Give your customers an autopilot button
We’re all time starved and suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) more than ever before. It’s no surprise that subscription service business models have continued to take off. Companies like PetFlow and Trunk Club combine delivery with autopilot routines to free consumers from shopping for pet food and designer clothes.
But on-demand doesn’t have to be the realm of quirky startups. Printer giant HP now offers an Instant Ink program where, for a monthly subscription, they’ll monitor your printer’s ink levels and automatically send you a refill when you’re low.
A wide range of brands can leverage simple opt-in commerce to enable reordering of consumables — everything from nails to water filters — on a seamless smart-schedule.
Connect more with your customers and increase buy-in by giving them an autopilot button. You can set up easy reordering options, forging a tighter relationship with Google Shopping and Amazon. You can even literally roll out your own variation of an Amazon Dash, the button that lets you reorder simple goods.
It’s not the crime. It’s the cover up.
Every customer expects to be treated like they’re at the center of your universe – and not only when they call your customer service hotline.
They respect openness and honesty and are suspicious of companies that clam up or deny problems. Transparency in customer service shows that your brand is looking out for your customer’s best interest.
The best brands aren’t just waiting for problems to happen before coming up with creative solutions. For valet parking company Luxe, on-demand is the baseline. The company goes a step further and automatically lets customers know if they’re expecting increased traffic so that customers are prepared for delays. That’s part of what’s lead to its loyal customer base.
Meet them where they are or miss the connection
When HBO launched HBO GO, it was recognizing the fact that fewer customers watch programs when they air; instead they record them on DVRs to watch later.
Then, by paying attention to how customers were actually using the new service, the company learned that a big percentage of subscribers preferred to watch programs on mobile devices while they were commuting or on vacation. That led to HBO NOW.
Brands need to pay attention to how consumers actually experience their products. Every time they wander off the beautiful user experience map you designed for them or break the terms-of-service agreement, that’s the on-demand psychology at work.
Innovate by finding where customers are and meeting them there.
Experience trumps everything else
In every era, the brands that win aren’t necessarily the ones with the coolest products but the ones that put customer experience at the center of everything they do. Whether it’s feature improvements or new business models, true innovation starts with the customer experience.
In this era, no business can afford to ignore the Uberification of everything. We are seeing an emerging customer behavior and we all better pay attention. Your customer isn’t comparing you to last year’s wait-time metrics or to your competitor’s convenience. They are comparing you to every other experience they will have today when they push buttons on their phone.
Tap-by-tap, they are steadily re-wiring their “buyer brain” to an on-demand way of thinking. And that means you are in the on-demand economy, ready or not.