Customers in today’s on-demand world have become accustomed to getting what they want, when they want. Any brand that cannot live up to these demands faces criticism for failing to offer a seamless customer experience.
Amazon has been credited with setting the gold standard for online customer experience, taking its offer up several notches with the UK debut of one-hour delivery service Prime Now in June 2015 and the launch in August of its Dash Button, a service that allows consumers to order and restock products through their Amazon app.
The boom in on-demand players has seen food delivery apps Just Eat, Hungryhouse and Deliveroo spawn startup rivals such as Jinn and Pronto. While in June this year private car hire giant Uber muscled into the sector with the launch of UberEats.
Brands are responding to today’s on-demand culture by exploring new revenue streams rooted in a seamless customer experience and slick delivery. In August, women’s lifestyle magazine Marie Claire teamed up with online retailer Ocado to launch beauty website Fabled. Using Ocado’s delivery network, Fabled offers nominated one-hour delivery slots and allows customers to coincide delivery with their Ocado grocery drop.
Over the past year, Argos has invested heavily in innovations around its delivery and fulfilment options. Aligned with its bid to become a “digital retail leader”, in October 2015 Argos launched Fast Track same-day delivery and in-store collection, which guarantees receipt of the order within 60 seconds of arrival.
Although in-store collection accounts for more than 70% of orders, the number of customers opting for home delivery is growing significantly, confirms marketing director Stephen Vowles.
“Customers have a thirst for yet more convenient ways of shopping.”
Stephen Vowles, marketing director, Argos
He says: “We have been very pleased in the take up of the Fast Track proposition. Customers have a thirst for yet more convenient ways of shopping. We marketed the launch of the service heavily on and offline. This was largely led by TV advertising and programmatic display online, as well as classic PPC advertising.”
Vowles believes Argos’ customer experience and delivery innovations made the business attractive to Sainsbury’s in its bid to take over parent company Home Retail Group. The Argos business model also helps create a seamless customer experience as the company has pin-point stock accuracy across nearly 800 stores and offers customers the option to collect from its 10 Sainsbury’s store concessions.
“Delivery customers want convenience with a high degree of certainty. Speed is a large consideration, but it’s not everything. They want the flexibility to pick up their shopping when they go to the high street in two days’ time,” Vowles adds.
“The next stage in customer experience and delivery will be to drive even greater convenience for the customer, for example allowing them to combine more shopping missions.”
Flexibility is king
Parcel collection and delivery service Doddle entered the on-demand fray in June 2015 with the launch of its Doddle Runners service. Named as one of Marketing Week’s 100 Disruptive Brands earlier this year, Doddle has developed an app that enables customers to have a product delivered by hand to a central London location within an hour for £1. Chief customer officer Paddy Earnshaw confirms Doddle is looking to roll out the service to cities such as Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester.
“The moment you think offering a standard process is good enough is the moment you’re dead in the water.”
Paddy Earnshaw, chief customer officer, Doddle
Across Doddle’s 55 click-and-collect stores the aim is to offer a slick experience that guarantees customers will be served with their parcel within 20 seconds. Doddle hopes to make the delivery element of the shopping experience as good, if not better, than the experience in-store.
“The core purpose of our business model is to deliver parcels in an on-demand way, which is about super convenience. The moment you think offering a standard process is good enough is the moment you’re dead in the water,” says Earnshaw.
He acknowledges that on-demand means different things in the world of fashion versus food. “With Deliveroo and UberEats the food market is going nuts, which is an exciting opportunity but there is a difference between food and retail.
“It is difficult for retailers to fulfil in that instant way until they realise how to fulfil from hubs in high density locations and not their own stores where it is harder to fulfil that level of stock,” he adds.
This opinion is shared by Andrew Robb, chief operating officer of online fashion website Farfetch. He agrees that while on-demand food delivery services like Deliveroo have done a “brilliant job”, fashion customers do not necessarily expect same-day delivery.
Robb explains: “I don’t think on-demand delivery is a huge use case in fashion. Rather than a specific focus solely on speed, our customers want greater flexibility and control on when and where they receive the item.”
Over the past year, Farfetch, which stocks clothing from more than 400 international boutiques, has introduced same-day delivery in over nine countries and switched to a single delivery fee regardless of the number of locations the customer is purchasing from. The online retailer is also evolving its global click-and-collect offer so customers can return clothing to the boutique.
Express shipping is Farfetch’s most popular delivery option, though customers purchasing lower priced or sale items tend to prefer standard shipping. Although it is difficult to offer specific timed deliveries in Tokyo for clothing shipped from Paris, Robb confirms achieving this level of complex delivery is not far away.
On-demand concierge service Henchman, also one of Marketing Week’s 100 Disruptive Brands, applies the ethos of on-demand food operators to luxury retail, a sector where customers are willing to pay £20 for delivery in under an hour.
“We started out two years ago responding to a genuine desire for on-demand, with services like Amazon Prime Now [offering one-hour delivery] changing the landscape and driving an instantaneous experience,” explains Henchman chief operating officer Adib Bamieh.
He describes Henchman as first and foremost a tech company, which is the reason it can offer a slick customer experience based on its in-house GPS tracking software.
Henchman works with designers such as Roberto Cavalli and Yves Saint Laurent to courier products to their customers, who can track their order through the app. Dressed in a uniform of black suit and red tie, the Henchman driver sends the customer a picture of their item upon collection. Currently exclusive to London, the fleet spans 50 to 100 drivers depending on whether it is the low or peak season.
“For retailers like Christian Dior we are an extension of their business,” says Bamieh. “They create the perfect in-store experience that needs to reflect in the delivery experience. We then hand the parcel over in exactly the same condition as the brand would.”
Bamieh expects Henchman will expand its services next year to cities such as Paris and Milan, where there is a high density of luxury brands and customers with large disposable incomes looking for a premium on-demand service.
Going forward, a seamless customer experience will be defined not purely by speed, but by the flexibility and choice a brand can offer time-poor consumers with higher expectations than ever.
Doctors on demand
When developing online consultation tool Push Doctor, founder and CEO Eren Ozagir wanted to create a pure-play experience that put customers just four clicks away from a doctor.
To achieve a truly on-demand experience Ozagir developed algorithmic engagement technology, creating a virtual network to distribute patients so no one doctor is overpowered by appointments.
Push Doctor allows patients to book an appointment using the online booking system or log into the on-demand clinic. When the appointment is scheduled, the patient signs in online or via the app to speak to a doctor via video, who can write a prescription and organise referrals straight away.
Ozagir says: “We have to keep that network of doctors super-engaged and on-tap, so when you click as a patient, we’re reaching out to a bunch of doctors based on a whole set of metrics [such as] what do you want to achieve, where have you come from, when were you last on the platform?”
Push Doctor will appear in Marketing Week’s 100 Disruptive Brands video series launching later this month.
For more on creating on-demand experiences visit the Customer Experience stage at the Festival of Marketing, which is running on 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.