What if most stores – and even Amazon – are getting frictionless shopping wrong? What would it mean for brands that are trying to do things differently?
Kim Otocki, a member of the Paytronix marketing team, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Gus Olympidis, the president and CEO of Family Express. His c-store brand has firmly established itself as a leader in the frictionless experience, and Olympidis had a lot of wisdom to offer other c-store owners who are trying to follow suit.
“We’re beginning to see a movement away from demographics, toward psychographics,” said Olympidis, pointing out that the cookie-cutter approach of segmenting by generations doesn’t work nearly as well as it used to. A group like the millennials, he points out, is far too large and diverse to use as a guide for consumer wants, needs, and behaviors.
The key to serving consumers best, says Olympidis, is doing everything a c-store can to understand them, independent of their demographic. In order to accomplish this, c-stores need the kind of data insights that will let them treat their customers as individuals instead of members of a broad group.
Some of these insights can be provided by digital loyalty programs and digital customer relationship management. But according to Olympidis, one of the biggest mistakes brands are making right now is assuming that technology equates to a frictionless customer experience.
In fact, he believes that “bad technology creates friction.” Anything that makes it more difficult for consumers to get what they want increases friction, and that can absolutely include technology.
Olympidis cites the Amazon Go stores and their cashier-less environment as an example of the mistaken thinking that technology always decreases friction. As he points out, if a customer at an Amazon Go store wants to interact with a cashier or an Amazon staff person, not being able to find one actually creates friction.
“Having the option for consumers to select their preferred experience is the ultimate elimination of friction,” says Olympidis. An integrated, seamless, orderly experience that allows consumers to get what they want, when they want it, and how they want it is the key to decreasing or virtually eliminating friction.
But of course, not every technological partnership is a suitable one. Olympidis cites three digital connectivity fundamentals that c-stores can use to gauge whether a partnership will work.
First, a potential partner must be willing to connect and use the most effective solution, not just a preferred one. Second, a potential partner must possess the capacity to connect, having the technology to make the connection as well as the time and staff to implement it. And finally, a potential partner must have a similar organizational culture so not only will the initial integration go smoothly, but both companies will be on the same page regarding data sharing and goals.
Olympidis finished up the discussion with this insight about the priorities of a successful company:
“A certain amount of our time should be devoted to imagining. The management of the business inherently gravitates towards absorbing the bulk of our energy. But virtually everything we’re managing was imagined at one point, and having enough time to imagine the things you’re going to be managing tomorrow is essential for a better future.”