Fair Exchange: Convenience Revisited

19 Nov 2014|Erna George

As a Committed Shopper who has long worshiped at the Altar of Brands, I thought these would give me some stability, some sense of accomplishment, some convenience when my world was turned upside-down by the arrival of the cutest alarm clock in the world, my son. No such luck.

Just one foray to the mall tore away the veneer and showed that making life easier for a busy mom is not high on brands’ priority lists. It’s time for brand custodians and marketers to rectify this.

For today’s consumers, convenience is a key differentiator. Brands that promise and deliver convenience will easily earn, in exchange, customer loyalty. But therein lies the rub; what do brands deliver?

Let’s explore

Women-Shopping-Shows-Commercial-Activity-and-Adult-by-Stuart-Miles-at-FreeDigitalPhotos.net_

Sticking to my motherhood theme, let’s explore … disposable nappies.

As I’d received a few packs as gifts, I did not shop for these before his birth. When he arrived a little on the lean side (a problem his mother has never had), he needed a snugger fit, and I duly dispatched my brother-in-law to the nearest store. His instructions? Buy the smallest nappy and the smallest pack. And, because I’m a smart shopper, compare the price between Pampers, Huggies and the house brand. I had no allegiances at that stage but figured it wouldn’t hurt to begin my research.

A completely flummoxed male called 15 minutes later begging me to simply say a brand name, any brand name, so he could get out of the shop. I wondered what had scrambled his thought processes until I stood in front of the shelf myself.

There is no standard size for a pack!

The pack size for a 4-9kg baby can be 72 nappies for Brand A, 94 for Brand B, 87 for Brand C and one of the Click’s packs contained just 9. There is no uniformity, no way of making a quick value-comparison.

Assumes two types of shoppers

To me, this assumes two types of shoppers — The Blindly Brand Loyal Sucker and The Lowest Price Per Pack Seeker. What about the First-Time Shopper or Value Shopper?

I suppose mothers are a hostage audience, so the critical thought in the brand manager’s mind is to maximise profitability. I simply cannot think of another reason for the packs to come in odd numbers, other than to make calculations just tiresome.

Differences like this in product categories are unnecessary. It reminds me of the early days of cellphones when each upgrade needed a new charger, creating clutter and frustration for consumers. Today, even though connection points may differ, most have a USB-to-plug connection with an interchangeable plug point so you can charge using your laptop or your car. Not perfect, but at least more flexible and convenient.

Finding Nemo

Not at all like my recent experience with said smartphone. Even though there were enough cellphone stores in the mall to stop a truck, finding one to repair the failing device was like finding Nemo.

The best Cell Store 1 could do was to send my phone off to Johannesburg for three weeks. Cell Store 2 could direct me to Cell Store 3 in a mall 20 minutes’ drive away. I did ask Cell Store 2 to contact Cell Store 3, but it didn’t ask the right questions so, when I got there, Cell Store 3 didn’t have the parts in stock and could help me in a week’s time. Convenient?

And then there’s my recent ATM experience. The very definition of an ATM is ‘convenient cash box’. Except that when I made a withdrawal after banking hours, the ATM gave me a little less cash than reflected on the withdrawal slip. Going into the branch the next day to point this out and ask that it be corrected, I was told that I should, in future, use the ATM linked to the branch in that mall so that the reconciliation would be easier. Alternatively, I should withdraw from a retailer.

Excuse me? The ATM linked to the bank is in a low-traffic — and therefore less-safe — part of the mall after hours. And, guess what, Pick n Pay is not a 24/7retailer. Convenient?

It’s about the full experience

I would like brand managers to return to their brand-positioning tools and properly evaluate how benefits such as convenience are expressed in their offers and brands. They have to remember it is no longer just about the product inside. It is about consumers being able to find the product easily online or on-shelf, being able to understand the value in a blink, about the pack opening easily, and the product delivering.

It is about the full experience, not just about it cooking in two minutes.

Today, the brand must deliver both functional and emotional benefits; this creates a deeper connection with consumers. If each of the benefits a brand wants to be famous for are delivered on a 360-degree basis, can you imagine the power of the brand’s ability to connect?

Ask yourself:

Which are most critical or differentiating benefits, such as convenience?
How can you ensure the journey from shelf to use delivers on each of those benefits?
Can they also be delivered consistently at each touch-point right through to your call centres?

Written by Erna George, Business Director, Added Value South Africa.
She contributes the monthly “Fair Exchange” column about business relationships and partnerships in adland to MarkLives.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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