Removing Steps

Can you remove steps in the buying process?

When was the last time you phoned a call centre?  How was it?

Last week I phoned a well known mobile phone carrier.  For starters, I had to search on their website for the right number to call.  It is amazing how adept at hiding contact numbers many companies have become.  I rang the number.  I was then asked a series of automated questions – name, address, mobile number and a series of questions about the nature of my query.  One minute in and I still haven’t spoken to anyone.

Then, finally, a human voice, who then proceeds to ask me most of the same questions that I’d already answered to get to this position.  Another 30 seconds and I still haven’t been able to talk about what I called to talk about.  When I do, eventually, get the opportunity, guess what?  Not his department.  He needs to transfer me.

By the time you actually get to someone who can help you, you are so irritated by the experience that you have to get off the phone before you explode.  Or is that just me?

Every additional step adds to the pain.  Not only this, every additional step reduces the chance of completing the task.  And if you are trying to get someone to do, or buy, something, that can be quite a problem.

A couple of years ago, HMRC ran an experiment to see if they could increase the number of people completing tax forms.  They sent out their standard letter with the web address people could go to, to find and fill in, their tax form.  1 in 5 people who got the letter went on to fill in the form and therefore pay their tax.

They then ran a trial with one small change.  This time the web link took people directly to the form rather than the page with the form on it.  In other words it saved people a single click.  The result?  A 22% increase in the number of people completing the form and therefore paying their tax.

We talked recently about using and buying products being a process.  A set of steps that a shopper goes through along the way.  One way of making the process easier is helping a shopper navigate smoothly through the steps – to overcome the ‘bumps in the road’.  But the other way is to remove a step, or steps, entirely.  The fewer steps we have to take, the more likely we are to do, or buy, something.

So, how can you remove steps in the buying process?

Being as easy as possible to find and buy.  In store this is about getting shoppers to the right part of the store quickly.  Then getting them to the right part of the aisle.  Any searching is an additional step.  Asking a member of staff where something is, is an additional step.

This is particularly relevant online.  An extra click can be the difference between being found or not.  That’s why search is used so often – it can save you 3 or 4 clicks.  It is why favourites are used heavily – the easiest thing to do is to buy what you bought before, where you bought it before – steps removed every shopping trip.  Amazon 1 click ordering = minimising the number of steps.  Amazon Subscribe & Save = removing steps altogether.

Taking out steps in the usage process.  It is no coincidence that, in many categories, it is the product or pack formats that are most convenient that are driving growth.  And often the ones that shoppers are prepared to pay more for.  Prepared fruit & veg = removing one step (peeling) and another step (chopping).  A product that can be cooked in it’s current packaging = removing one step (from pack to tray) and another step (washing up afterwards).

Linking steps to each other.  The majority of shopper marketing activity is focused on this purchase – getting a shopper to buy right now.  Much less attention is paid to future purchases – getting shoppers to buy again (and again…).  This is particularly important for NPD.  Often, we give shoppers an incentive to trial a product.  Then hope that they will repeat.  What if we gave them a stronger incentive (e.g. a coupon) to make the second purchase? And the third?  Removing the step of thinking about what to buy next time. Waitrose give shoppers an incentive for their first 5 online trips.  Once you have shopped 5 times, you are unlikely to go anywhere else.

Most of the things we do in life are based around a series of steps.  The more steps, the less likely we are to do something.  The fewer steps, the more likely we are to do it.

Just removing one step can be the difference between something being done or not.  Bought or not.

If only call centres understood that.

On a separate note, our monthly article in The Grocer goes out in tomorrow’s edition .  There is a link to it on our website.. http://www.insight-traction.com/destination-categories/

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.

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