How four brands are building a frictionless future

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nib Chief Executive Officer Mark Fitzgibbon and futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson.

Inadequate customer experiences saw Australian business lose out on billions of dollars last year. But is the tide beginning to turn? In Facebook’s Zero Friction Future series, four industry leaders sat down with global futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson to discuss their strategies to create a frictionless future — for their customers and their employees.

Last year Australian businesses lost out on $43.4 billion (1) of customer spend because of friction in their customer experience.

Clearly then, while brands have previously tinkered with the concept, ensuring a seamless, inspiring and pain-free customer journey is now a strategic necessity.

Too often, friction within the research and buying journey has left potential customers frustrated, deflated and ultimately jumping ship to a competitor. And it’s not only external barriers that have scuppered so many sales. Friction can also paralyse businesses internally with poor communication and sub-standard technology leaving them unable to react.

Facebook has partnered with global futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson to explore how Australian brands are progressing towards a Zero Friction Future, including an interview series with four leading brand executives.

Among the industries aiming to pioneer new processes is the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) sector, which by its very nature needs to provide speed and convenience.

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KFC South Pacific marketing director Michael Forster spoke to Sörman-Nilsson, stressing that the business is not only focused on getting the most from its digital and delivery channels, but assessing where the next wave of demand will emerge.
KFC’s ethos was about “learning fast and building capability for the future,” he says.

“What’s interesting is how quickly the future becomes completely normal,” Forster tells Sörman-Nilsson. “We think that voice is going to be huge. So we launched re-ordering through Alexa, and enabled ordering directly from Messenger. This means that as our consumers move to these places, we’re not behind the eight ball.”

KFC is also pursuing personalisation, with its app storing customers’ favourite choices and enabling them to re-order without trawling through the menu.

Pre-ordering on mobile to bypass queues has also been pivotal in removing in-store friction, Forster says.

Noting the multitude of ways customers can now connect with the brand (with a recent Australian study revealing one in four Australian Millennials say they use direct messaging to connect with a brand or business at least once per week (2) for example), he adds: “It’s interesting how norms of behaviour can shift in the category.”

While a legacy sector like QSR has been forced to reinvent itself for a new reality, Australian graphic design and publishing start-up Canva learned historical lessons which helped it grow to a $4 billion company since founding in 2012.

For Melanie Perkins, Canva’s Founder and Chief Executive, developing a frictionless customer experience became a core fundamental from the outset. Such a philosophy, she explains, emerged from her days as a tutor where she witnessed students struggling with technology.

“When you design you use desktop software, but then you must go online to source photography, go somewhere else for illustrations, another place for fonts and then you need to pull all that together in a design,” Perkins says.

“It was a huge problem for small businesses because they didn’t have all the expertise. So we built the product in the early days to solve this exact pain point.”

Simplifying often-baffling technology allows true creativity to flourish, she adds, and enables individuals and businesses
to communicate ideas “without
any friction”.

Canva has recently launched Canva for Enterprise, which allows CMOs to put design “railtracks” in place for all employees to create consistent assets, such as presentations, across all departments.

But if a brand’s external barriers are experienced directly by customers, the origins can often be found much closer to home; inside the business itself.

For example, a quarter of employees say they have had an idea but never voiced it to management according to a report (3), which also shows just 3% of employees feel connected to their C-Suite and 14% to their business headquarters. But overcoming internal issues can have a massive impact for brands and marketers, with one study showing companies with highly engaged employees outperform competitors by 147% (4).

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Speaking to Sörman-Nilsson, the Chief Executive Officer of nib, Mark Fitzgibbon reveals how the health insurer is adopting new technology platforms, Workplace by Facebook among them, to inject a greater sense of collaboration and innovation into
the workplace.

Such communication platforms give employees, which number 1,500 at nib, “a rich sense of how they contribute towards the greater purpose of the business,” Fitzgibbon says.

“Courtesy of technologies like Workplace by Facebook staff can coordinate with colleagues, share ideas, share experiences, experiment and deploy all those mechanisms to innovate and improve how the business operates,” he says.

The experimentation aspect was singled out by Fitzgibbon, who points out: “We have, as our culture, a belief that in order to experiment you have a licence to fail.”

The vision for nib and Fitzgibbon, is to move beyond what he describes as the historic one-size-fits-all “sick-care system” which only kicks in when health begins to suffer.

“You have to believe that technology is going to contribute towards a healthier population and well-being, and it’s being assisted by the amazing advances we’re seeing in data science,” Fitzgibbon adds.

“If we are going to be a healthcare company rather than a sick-care company, we are going to have to be very good at understanding who people are biologically, psychologically, genetically and socially and interpreting that data, understanding the consequences and making informed judgments about their health.”

While eliminating friction can smooth the purchase journey and unlock earnings potential, businesses also have an obligation to provide a post-purchase experience with an eye on driving long-term value for customers, creating loyalty and community with them.

In the case of automotive brand MINI, some cars built to order can take six months to arrive. In contrast, customers spend only four weeks in the decision making phase.

MINI Head of Marketing for Australia and New Zealand, Alex McLean, says the brand strives to “excite” customers by keeping them closely informed about the vehicle’s design and construction progress.

“We’ve established a communications stream where we update customers the moment their car reaches different points on that production process,” he says. “It’s a significant investment, particularly an emotional brand such as MINI, so providing these updates and this visualisation of where their car is, is validating that purchase.”

That emotional allure has spawned hundreds of fan groups, or ‘MINI Clubs’ across the world. These are amplified through social platforms, especially Facebook groups which McLean says creates enthusiastic advocacy.

Unsurprisingly, reaching consumers through social platforms has also become pivotal. McLean said Mini has distinct approaches for each platform, with Instagram and Facebook users targeted with personalised marketing messages.

He explains: “So with Instagram we focus on brand aesthetics and engagement, whereas with Facebook we look at lead ads and other ad units. It allows us to be much more focused on that transition or transaction-based consumer.”

MINI has also upped its game in the compressed pre-purchase cycle, with McLean emphasising the need to provide a seamless experience on its most crucial marketing platform — its website. Too often in the automotive industry, brands forget the importance of the experience and demand tedious form filling of their prospective customers, he says.

“That’s because the automotive industry has traditionally been focused on lead generation and capturing data,” McLean explains. “We’re removing all those barriers.

“Our research suggests if someone visits our website 10 times or more in a four week period, they are 10 times more likely to end up buying a car. It’s so important that consumers get the processes and user experience they are looking for.”

While progress — and sizeable investment — is being made by some brands, it’s clear just as many have a long way to go to meet customer expectations.

With at least $43.4 billion1 on the table for businesses which offer customers the best experiences, that should be all the incentive needed for companies to raise their game.

You can see all the interviews from the Zero Friction Future series and learn more about how Facebook can partner with your business to overcome friction at https://fb.me/zff-au 

1. Boston Consulting Group Data Analysis, Mar 2018; Exchange rate used as $1 USD = $1.49 AUD from XE.com, Sep 2019
2. “Messenger Study” by YouGov Galaxy (Facebook-commissioned study of 1080 respondents, ages 18+, Australia), May 2019
3. Source: “Deskless not Voiceless Report” by Workplace (Facebook-commissioned survey of 4000 respondents in UK, US), 2018
4. “The Un-ignorable Link Between Employee Experience and Customer Experience” by Blake Morgan, Forbes.com, 23 Feb 2018

 

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