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Great brands compete for your time, not your money

Part I

The Rolling Stones sang about time in 1964. “Time is on my side, yes it is.”

Not so for many retailers these days. Unfortunately for some erstwhile great brands, time represents a slow tortuous decline to oblivion. We all read the headlines of bankruptcy and nobody is surprised.  We ask ourselves, when was the last time we set foot in one of their stores? And we come to the same conclusion: not for years. Or we did venture in, only to hurry out. Disappointed, as the fond memories of the brand were tarnished in that short visit.

In some brands we can only conclude there is an entrenched apathy. They’re counting on Jagger’s words in the refrain: “You’re searching for good times but just wait and see, you’ll come runnin’ back, you’ll come running back to me.”

A shame really, because it’s such a great time to be in business. Generations will look back on this era as one of the most disruptive of their lifetime, with new experiences coming at us on a monthly basis. Globalization, a growing middleclass, new technologies, changed social norms and a more daring, entrepreneurial workforce have given rise to a creativity and innovation that will be hard to emulate in the decades ahead.

What many brands don’t seem to realize is that the currency of our time, of the modern consumer, is time itself.

Rue La La’s founder Ben Fischman shared that RLL’s competitors are not other retailers, not other brands, not amazon, nor Nordstrom Rack. It’s facebook. Or, what facebook has come to symbolize: all media content, whether TV, streaming video, social, gaming, or news. RLL’s aim is to grab a tiny slice of a consumer’s time at precisely 11am when the daily curated collection is launched. Traffic surges to Amazon heights and 15 minutes later RLL fades away to become background media static, only to revive the next day.

FITCH describes GenZ as “shopping in a constant state of partial attention”. There are so many triggers during a day – facebook, instagram, text, 2-minute youtube video, candycrush, the daily Trump. It’s a steady stream of sugar highs that the modern consumer has come to crave. As a brand you need to ask yourself, how do I interrupt that flow, or rather become part of that flow. How do I increase my share of time with the customer, my share of LIFE?

An equally important strategy is to minimize the impact to that flow, lower the barriers, and let the consumer help themselves in the absolute minimum amount of time, with intuitive ease. Great brands cut through the clutter by delivering what consumers want, when they want it, without hassle. By simplifying customer experience in a complex world, these brands win customer loyalty. 63% of consumers are willing to pay more for a simpler experience, and 69% are more likely to recommend a brand because it provides a simpler experience. Successful brands are building an experience signature across the collective physical, digital and human touch-points and putting time at the center.

Let’s explore 3 strategies that successful brands and disruptors employ.

#1 Map the customer journey and compress time

25 years ago the author worked a summer job at Ikea. The famous Ikea maze snaked through all departments, starting with manchester and ending in the furniture warehouse and just beyond, the Swedish meatballs. Only personnel knew the shortcuts, hidden behind curtains and PAX wardrobe displays. Over the years hundreds of millions of people have been forced to walk the ikea maze, which allegedly it is finally ditching in their new store formats. Compare that to Amazon, the organization that delivers products and time saving to 54 million households across America.

After having pioneered 1-click and the dash button, the Echo is the next stage of the evolution in their relentless pursuit of an improved customer experience. A warehouse issue causing shipping delays some years ago wasn’t solved by staging the longest delays to the least loyal customers as some other businesses may have done. Instead they brought in extra labour at significant cost, to do right by every single customer and ensure delays were minimized. Here is a brand that cherishes customer’s time and will go from strength to strength because of it.

Starbuck’s queues are legendary – their ordering app is a god-send for venti iced coffee lovers the world over. Peapod and Freshdirect survived Webvan and have been delivering groceries to your door for over 15 years. Luxury brands have launched personalized shopping experiences in the comfort of VIPs’ hotel rooms. Tuft & Needle has greatly simplified the experience of buying a mattress, Nespresso has brought you quality coffee at the press of a button, Netflix has eradicated video rental late fees, Sprinkles delivers cupcakes curbside, and Uber has eliminated 10 minute waits at that same curb, arms raised to flag down a cab ride where an onslaught on the olfactory senses awaited.

Some may say it comes down to an improved customer experience, but at the heart of it all there is one common theme: saving you time.

Part II of this blog to follow.

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