In February 1998 Jeff Bezos called a meeting.
He had been thinking a lot about the checkout process on his rapidly growing eCommerce site.
To place an order, customers had to go through many steps. Add your name. Then the first line of your address. Then postcode. Then type of credit card. Then card number. Then billing address. Then shipping address. There were no autofill functions.
It could take a few minutes to complete a purchase. There was a lot of friction.
In the meeting Bezos said, “We need something to make the ordering system frictionless. We need to make it so the customer can order products with the least amount of effort. They should be able to click one thing and it’s done.”
The goal was to make it as easy as possible.
Bezos said, “The more steps there are, the more time the customer has to change their mind. If we can get them to buy with one click, they are more likely to make the purchase.”
So, Amazon developed the one click ordering solution. They filed a patent for it that lasted for 20 years.
It gave them a huge advantage over their competitors. An advantage that compounded over time.
Why are we talking about this? A lot of time and energy in our industry goes on fighting the competitive battle. Trying to be better than your competition. Trying to be different to your competition. Trying to be cheaper than your competition.
Much less time and energy is focused on being easier than your competition.
Yet being easier is a competitive advantage. It is why Jeff Bezos has always been obsessed by it.
An obsession with being easier directs your decisions. If something makes it easier for people to buy, you do it (or keep doing it). If it makes it harder, you don’t do it (or stop doing it).
So, what does this mean in our world?
Look at your PACKS. Are you making things easier or harder for shoppers? Are you easier or harder to find and recognise than your competition? Is your communication on pack making it easier to understand what the product is and why it is good? Is your pack easy to access and pick up? Is it easier to access and pick up than competitors?
Many products are bought because it was the first product shoppers saw or picked up.
Look at the way you LAUNCH NEW PRODUCTS. Are you making things easier or harder for shoppers? Are you making it easier for shopper by priming them before they get to store? Telling them what to look for. Where to find it. When to find it. Are you making it easier for shoppers to trial the new product? Sample sizes. Trial packs. Introductory pricing. Money back guarantees. Are you making it easier for shoppers to repeat buy? An incentive for the second and third purchase not just the first.
Successful new product launches make it easy for shoppers to see, try and repeat buy.
Look at your DISTRIBUTION. Are you making things easier or harder for shoppers? Are you in all the most relevant channels for your category? For instance, if you’re a snacking product, are you easy to buy in all the places that shoppers may be thinking snacks? If you’re a product that is often bought spontaneously or as a treat (e.g. beer, wine, chocolate, ice cream), are you easy to buy on fast delivery services? Coca Cola follow the mantra of “within arm’s reach of desire”. When people want a drink, is Coke there? If it isn’t, then it needs to be.
Many products are bought because they are there. Whilst many products are not bought because they are not there.
Look at your LOCATIONS IN STORE. Are you making things easier or harder for shoppers? How visible is your category or brand in its home aisle? Are you also in secondary locations with high traffic (where a lot of shoppers go) and high relevance (relevant to shoppers at that point in their journey)? What about online? Are you one click away in the drop-down menu or four clicks away? Are you linked to the most relevant search terms? Are you on the favourites list?
Many products are not bought because it is too much effort to find them.
These are just a few examples. You can ask “are we making it easier or harder for shoppers?” of all your activities.
If you are making it harder, you need to make it easier.
Right, we’re off to Amazon to do our Christmas shopping. Reckon 10 clicks and we’ll be done.
Feel free to forward. Have good weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.