Retail's Opportunity is Not in Technology It's in Removing Friction...
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Retail's Opportunity is Not in Technology It's in Removing Friction for Customers

By Maureen McDonagh, Head of Industry, Retail, Facebook

Maureen McDonagh, Head of Industry, Retail, Facebook

Like me, I’m sure most of us start the day just trying to get out the door. Every morning; we're trying to survive the daily commute, juggle life admin, and complete as many tasks as possible on the move.

That’s why the brands that speak to me are those that can make my life easier.

Starbucks allows me to order ahead, saving me precious moments in the morning.

Bloom & Wild reminds me of important birthdays and anniversaries.

And after a long day, Deliveroo can sometimes be a savior, pulling a range of choices into a single place where I can just pick what I fancy.

The one thing they all have in common is that they make it easy to buy. There are no barriers, and when it comes to shopping, I want as few steps to take me from discovery to purchase as possible. I want my experience to be frictionless.

"A study by Ipsos identified that 42 percent of UK online shoppers expect their brands to provide an option to chat with a live agent or representative if they have any questions or follow-ups”

Causing Friction with Your Customers

Friction can occur offline, online, and can happen at all stages of the purchase journey. It happens when people have to search for items in store or on an app, are forced to wait in long lines, need to enter excessive payment information, or even laboriously fill in details on physical or digital forms.

This doesn’t just make customers angry–this impacts the bottom line. An estimated $260bn is lost every year just due to abandoned shopping baskets, and in 2019 the projected opportunity cost of friction for eCommerce businesses in the UK is £36 billion.

This represents an immense opportunity for businesses in any industry to reduce friction and grow their customer base, and the companies that are winning are those that recognize these consumer trends and move faster and push harder to remove friction for their customers.

Take delivery, for example. As soon as people embraced Amazon Prime, any delivery service without next day delivery seems outdated.

Or look at customer support. Once real-time chat support was introduced, any service that forces people to search through webpages for a support email address and wait a day for a reply causes frustration.

Facebook has partnered with consultancy firm BCG to understand those customer pain points and the specific frustrations that cause a customer to tap out of the purchasing journey. Our research found that 37 percent of shoppers in western Europe say they have left a brand's site or app without making a purchase because there was not enough information about the product.

Some of the friction shoppers face at this stage include elements such as not having enough information or the customer journey taking too much time. There are multiple ways frustrations manifest themselves.

Shopping Made Easier with Instagram

One way you can shorten the path to purchase is by shopping on Instagram–making it easier for your customers to discover, shop, and buy in just a few taps. Since 75 percent of monthly active Instagrammers already open Instagram with the intent to shop, we've made it easy for your customers to not only shop on mobile but also to buy on mobile. Shopping on Instagram gives people quick access to product pricing and details by tapping on a product tag or sticker, and then makes the checkout process simple by sending people straight to your website to purchase.

Instagram Checkout, currently being tested first in the US, minimizes the obstacles between the moment of discovery and a completed purchase by giving shoppers a simple, convenient, and secure way to make their purchases in-app. With the introduction of checkout, Instagram has created a truly frictionless purchase experience.

Embrace Messaging

And we mustn’t forget the post-purchase stage, which is equally as important to maintain a relationship with your customers. Friction can pop up after the purchase, just as it can during the discovery and purchase process. A study by Ipsos identified that 42 percent of UK online shoppers expect their brands to provide an option to chat with a live agent or representative if they have any questions or follow-ups.

So, how can you address it? People are increasingly talking to each other through messaging. Worldwide, people send around 100 billion messages each day using our services, and they expect the same kind of fast, direct response from businesses.

Messaging not only offers more convenient and effective support for your customers, but it also drives business results.

To make it easier for people to book in-store appointments around the holidays, Sephora enhanced its messenger assistant with features like unified date and time picker, appointment reminders, and sync to the calendar. As a result, the brand saw a 60 percent increase in appointments booked, and nearly 50 percent more clients showed up for their appointment, compared to its previous messenger experience and other mobile booking services.

Getting it Right for Your Customers

When retailers get it right, they remind us, as consumers, that we deserve better.

None of us can predict the future, but it’s fairly safe to assume that, ten years from now, every friction point of the shopping journey will have been disrupted multiple times over. Consumers often adopt new technologies before businesses do, pushing us to move faster.

We believe at Facebook that the future belongs to businesses that embrace all that technology has to offer to ensure that they are putting customers and their desire for the smoothest purchasing journey first.

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