The Convenience Economy Comes of Age

Among the transformations on the retail landscape in the recent past, perhaps none was more profound than proliferation of the “convenience economy,” in which everything is at the consum­er’s disposal at the click of a button, according to Chris Bryson, CEO of Unata, a leading omnicommerce solutions provider. He states, “2015 was the year UberX went from a smaller, unknown player to a force driving change across sectors. We’re at a point where new business ideas are often described as ‘Uber for_______ .”’

The convenience economy’s biggest shift, Bryson says, “came when major players like Starbucks started embracing it with the “Order Ahead mobile app,” which has led to “wide­spread adoption of this kind of immediate customer transaction, and reinforced the need for quick and convenient service on a daily basis,” and with it, a huge shift in consumer expectations across all sectors.

Retailers of all stripes “are suddenly playing catchup, learning how they can incorporate real-time, on-demand trans­actions into their strategies,” notes Bryson, who founded Unata in 2011. The company’s roster of grocery clients includes Longo’s, Grocery Gateway, Lowes Foods, Lunds and Byerlys, and Raley’s. When asked to elaborate on some examples of the convenience economy now catching his eye, and which are the most important, Bryson ticks off a shortlist of standouts, includ­ing the following.

  • UberX/UberEATS: “Consumers don’t have to call to order their car/food, take out their wallets to pay, or wait very long for their car/food to arrive. They can watch the driver travel and arrive live on a map, with the ability to commu­nicate with their driver at the click of a button.”
  • Starbucks: “The Order Ahead app is simple and easy to use, and saves the customer minutes on a daily basis— which becomes especially valuable on rushed mornings. They are reinforcing this type of customer experience on a daily basis.”
  • Ritual: “This is a Toronto-based app—expanding in the United States—that lets consumers order lunch ahead of time from various restaurants near their location. The app notifies consumers exactly when they should leave their current locale so they arrive at the restaurant just when food is ready for pickup, ensuring the food remains as hot and fresh as possible. Ritual is a simple and clean user experience that lets customers order food in a couple of clicks and saves them 5 to 10 minutes a day of waiting time.”
  • Amazon Echo and Dash with Prime: “With both Amazon Echo and Dash, consumers don’t have to write a shopping list, go to their computers, or even pull out their phones to make an order, or take out their wallets to pay. With Dash buttons, they can order at the click of one button; and with Echo, Amazon has taken the click out entirely. It’s the easi­est possible way for consumers to online shop. Combined with Amazon Prime, consumers don’t have to wait long to get things that they’ve ordered.”

Although it’s still unclear what the shopper of the future will find the most convenient way to shop for groceries, Bryson says, “The convenience economy so far tells us that the fewer clicks needed, the more adoption there will be, which is why we have our eye on Amazon Echo. We’ve seen how quickly Uber has changed the landscape, and we expect it to continue to change just as quickly in ways we don’t yet know over the next few years. Retailers need to focus on setting up their sys­tems so they can easily flex, adapt, iterate, and connect with new systems.”

Source: Barry Berman, Joel R Evans, Patrali Chatterjee (2017), Retail Management: A Strategic Approach, Pearson; 13th edition.

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