Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why Shopping Will Never be the Same Again

A panel with Steve Yanovich
VP Innovation & New Ventures, eBay Inc, eBay

Did you know that $634 is transacted on eBay every second?

That’s why when eBay is giving a talk on the future of retail, you know it’s going to be worth it’s salt.

So off I went with about a millimetre of space left in my brain to the Four Seasons to try and soak up the last bit of digital deliverance for the week.

Steve opened with a fascinating video, bombarding us with mobile stat after mobile stat to really hammer home exactly what the reason was as to why shopping would never be the same again.

Get this…

  • In 2012 eBay generated $13 billion through mobile, and in 2013 they predict that this will soar to $20 billion.
  • 1/3 of eBay purchases are touched by mobile.
  • Customers spend more money when shopping via smartphone than they do when they are shopping on their desktop.
  • Each day there are more iPhones sold than babies born.

He closed this out by saying;

“If you guys have a website that’s not mobile optimized, shame on you.”

Seriously, shame on you.

This is what I took from Steve’s talk and how I’m going to break it down:
1. Customers are customers 24/7.
2. We need to reduce ‘friction’ from their lives.
3. We need to do this by being innovative.

1. Customers are customers 24/7…and not just when they walk into the retail outlet.

We have changed. Consumer’s behaviors and expectations have changed.

With a show of hands, Steve highlights how most of us would swing a sharp U-turn if we had forgotten our mobiles at home, but would casually forgo our lunch if we’d left our wallets behind.

This presents a HUGE opportunity to mobile retailers. We’ve always LOVED to buy and now that our mobiles are always on us, a purchase can be made at any point in time. This isn’t new news, but what exactly are retailers doing to seize this moment?

Web users have also developed very high expectations. With simple, easy and seamless mobile web experiences like 1-click purchases on Amazon, hailing a taxi with Hailo or even using QR codes for boarding passes, we no longer accept tasks that take us a large number of steps, clicks or require us to think too much.

This means if you have a nasty user experience on your e-commerce site – don’t expect to shift loads of goods.

2. We need to reduce ‘friction’ from people’s lives…to maximize on that small window of opportunity where a customer may make a purchase.

Steve refers to tasks in one’s life that are not particularly meaningful or enjoyable as “friction”. Spending too much time doing things that aren’t fun or rewarding are becoming unacceptable, from having to find your shirt size in a shop to having to pay for your petrol. He has a vision of a car owner driving to the petrol station which detects who the driver is, what pump he has pulled up at and directly charging his account as he fills up his tank and drives away while the invoice is sent directly to his email account.

Likewise, in a retail outlet. He believes the salesperson should know who you are when you arrive, what dress size you take and what your preferred colours are. They should also be able to tell whether you are a loyal customer and require better service. The experience needs to be quicker but more personalised.

Removing friction from people’s lives is about making life as simple as conceivably possible. Small things can be done to achieve this, for example eBay found when they moved the “Buy Now” button above the fold, their conversion rate increased by 30%. It is becoming vital to simplify and optimize the web experience as the noise and clutter in the world increases, the window of time in which a consumer will convert decreases.

3. We need to be innovative… in our use of technology to reduce this friction.

Steve makes a number of suggestions on how retail outlets can be more innovative in the digital space. We need to bring more of the online into offline spaces with in-store digital experiences using kiosks and touchscreen displays. Stores need to utlise CRM systems so that salespeople can connect with the audience in a better way. They need to know who you are and what you are looking for before you walk into the store;

“If I do something good and useful for you, no one cares about big brother. The key is to not be creepy.”

Beyond CRM, retail outlets can build in-store inventory into these apps so they know exactly what sizes are available in an instant, reducing any time spent looking on the shelves for clothing.

Another suggestion is in-app checkouts so a shopper does not need the sales associate, they simply checkout on their phones themselves – with no friction.

Retail outlets can also maximize on the times that they are not open with large touchscreen interactive window-shopping displays. Currently eBay has found that 80% of all customers who interact with these screens first time will go right through to the end of the entire experience.

Finally Steve talks about disruptive marketing and getting people to shop when they weren’t even thinking about shopping and reference’s eBay’s “Watch with eBay”, an eBay iPad feature which allows you to buy stuff from your favourite shows while watching TV.

So, with all this advice, is this where eBay is headed? Into retail?

Well without wanting to give too much away, Steve tells us that there are big things planned for eBay.

He marvels at the revolutionary world of 3D printing, bolding stating, “eBay is going to be the marketplace for 3D printing”. He talks about how it will revolutionise the manufacturing industry and retail world with near real-time creation and delivery of products. He predicts we will see a huge shift when 3D printers reach mass market and we are able to print inventory on demand.

A CAD file of any spare part, whether it is an electrical appliance or car part, can be uploaded to your 3D printer and the part can be printed then and there. The thought of it is mind-blowing and that’s before we open the can of worms of how this will effect copyright & IP laws if anyone, anywhere is able to generate their own products with a simple CAD drawing.
So to wrap it all up, if we are to take away one key message from Steve’s talk, it would be to reduce friction from people’s lives.

We need to remember; our customers are our customers whether they are in the store, in the boardroom, out to lunch, or even in someone else’s store. Buying needs to be made as simple as possible – he wants us to think about it in this way: Can a customer search, find and buy something they want in the moments it takes a traffic light to turn from red to green? And finally we need to use technology to deliver this.

It is all about giving consumers the freedom to purchase what, when, where and how they want.