Updated: Jan 31
Wednesday, Jan 30, Denver, CO
After a whirlwind two days at OR we’ve seen, heard and done a lot. We even danced and drank beer in a cold, wet, and unforecasted “sner” shower (that’s the cool new word for snow apparently) at the Rad in Plaid party.
We talked to this week consumers about their buying habits and heard a common response—that they care a lot about convenience and about having a great purchase experience. Consumers want products to magically appear in their hands with the absolute least friction possible. This is the "experience" today’s consumers care about most.
The problem is, brands are misunderstanding what the word experience means today. It changed meaning in the last 4-5 years and frankly, brands haven’t entirely noticed.
The In-store Experience is not the Same as the Fulfillment Experience
If you say “experiences” to a brand, the first thing most of them will think of is the shopping experience. Mostly companies are focused on in-store or on-site activations like serving coffee or building out plant walls and instagram-worthy design nooks. Or perhaps hosting a ladies night, or doing a pop-up skate parks, etc… (most of those are actual examples of experiences suggested by panelists at OR this week).
All of which is fine but… this kind of 'experience' is less and less relevant. Wait, what?
That's right. This is because brands are thinking about experiences in terms of what they’ve been told for years now—that “millennials want experiences not products.” Which admittedly sucks if you’re a company selling products not services. This idea caused quite the hysteria in the 2000’s-2010’s. Here’s the thing though, it’s not 2010 anymore it’s 2020.
In 2020, much of a brand’s core consumers are now Gen Z and guess what... they LOVE products.
You’re a Product Company, Act Like It
Gen Z is consuming products at a rapid rate and isn’t as concerned about having experiences as their millennial counterparts. Or, at least, not the experience you’re thinking of. In fact, Gen Z cares about a totally different kind of experience…. the fulfillment (purchase, delivery and return) experience.
(Millennials are actually becoming more and more fulfillment experience sensitive, and frankly so are all consumers. All our consumption behavior is now very convenience driven.)
Consumers today are demanding. They want to find everything they want, anytime they want, and have it in their hands exactly when they want. Which is tough… but is also great news. They want your products!
At OR this week, this disconnect was very evident. We listened to various panels and thought leadership, where people were busy discussing dated talking points like “creating shopping experiences and environments for your ‘tribe.” Blah blah blah. Tbh, consumers today aren’t very tribal. That’s BS wishful thinking. They care more about convenience than they do about a particular brand. Brand fluidity is at an all time high. If your core consumer runs into even a few stock-outs at your brand, they’re going to buy a comparable product from your competitor, rather than wait for you to re-stock, and will cost you a lot to reacquire them. How do you like your “tribe” now?
What brands need to rediscover about themselves is—you are a product company, not a service company. Be really good at creating and delivering products, not hosting parties.
If you’re a ski brand, your core mission is to make and sell skis. You need to be excellent at both of these things. You really don’t need to run a theme park out of your corporate retail store. Your consumers will be thrilled if you focus on keeping your products in stock and not taking a million years to ship them to their door.
It's Time to Get Serious about the Fulfillment Experience
Instead of spending time and effort pretending to be a service company, brands need to focus on being a fulfillment experience leader. Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly on fulfillment excellence.
If you don't sell online, get online. You can use solutions like Quivers to sell direct and distribute orders through your retailers to solve for channel conflict. Channel conflict is not longer an excuse not to meet consumer purchase preferences. If you're online, great, now stay in stock. We'll help you reduce stocks-outs by accessing inventory from across your retailer network.
What we know is that brands who invest in world-class order fulfillment capabilities (and great software products like Quivers that make fulfillment excellence easy to achieve) will have a real competitive advantage in the decade to come.
The keys to success are: keeping products in stock, making your entire catalogue available to purchase direct online, and ensuring fast and cheap delivery and returns.