The human body is an amazing thing. It is intricately innervated with nerve endings designed to let you know when your body is under various forms of stress or localised pain.
The brain (or spinal cord) receives a signal then instantly responds by sending messages to the body to react accordingly.
This reaction is typically a rapid movement away from a pain source. This evolutionary role of nerves and the brain play a role in human survival and has done so for centuries.
This physiological phenomenon is also occurring in Retail and B2B. A retailer (for example) is presented with various forms of pain and immediately reacts. Common examples of “pain” are…
- A retailer is underperforming or missing targets (most common)
- A retailer views the conduct of a competitor and reacts to copy that conduct
Like the human body, Retailers respond to pain in a “knee-jerk” manner.
The normal knee-jerk or, "patellar jerk," reflex is elicited when the knee is tapped below the knee cap. The spinal cord automatically sends a signal back along a nerve to muscles which contract, causing a kick. The brain is never involved in the reflex.
The key statement here comes at the end of this definition..."the brain is never involved in the reflex".
A response to a situation where the reaction is predictable without thinking.
A common example of a predictable retail response is quickly introducing sales campaigns/discounting products.
Where the “Knee-jerk” behaviour of the human body can save a life, in the business context, this same behaviour can harm long term business health.
Harming Business Health – How:
Business health degradation comes in the form of not addressing the underlying issue(s) that caused the pain initially.
In the human body scenario, a person touches fire and immediately retracts his/her had to stop the pain. In that moment, a person mentally records the source of the pain and realises not to touch fire in the future.
A business does not conduct this same "survival diagnosis" when conducting its “knee-jerk” reaction.
This avoidance of addressing the stimulus causing business pain, creates business vulnerability increasing the likelihood the pain will repeat again.
The business continues to touch the fire.
So why does this happen in business? There are three common reasons...
Retailers have, for decades, commonly responded to pain by activating sales. This was common before the days of the internet and is the cause for "discount retail" business models, those who are in perpetual sale mode.
#2. Absence in Diagnosis:
Where the human brain is designed to diagnose fire equals pain, in the business context, there are many variables that can cause the pain. Many of which are not obvious.
To work through a process of diagnosis requires accurate business data and specialists to work through that data.
#3. Absence in Knowledge in eCommerce:
Less than 1% of retailers in the world understand now to appropriately leverage the eCommerce channel. This results in the reliance on old school tactics (see #1. History).
The above three reasons culminate into answering the question which is... What is the right way for retailers to respond to “pain” and preserve its long-term business health? The Answer: Fix the Online Channel.
Fix the Online Channel:
In today’s “post covid” world, retailers have gone back to say, “it’s all about omnichannel”, which is true. BUT (and this is a big "But"), if a retailer does not have the right eCommerce function/channel in place, it will never achieve the right standard of Omni Channel experiences to drive growth.
The online eCommerce channel site and the experiences it delivers is the centre point of Omnichannel.
So what are the NEW methods available to Retailers should they be confronted with pain driven stimuli that requires a response?
The NEW “Knee Jerk” - Five Methods to React:
In the situation where a Retailer finds itself in a situation where it needs to react to a pain driven stimulus there are new ways to react.
Many times, a retailer is seeking methods to react quickly. The list of five methods below is a mix of proven approaches that can happen quickly or may sometimes be medium term depending on the business itself.
With that said, all five are proven and known methods to respond to a business pain stimulus.
#1. Audit the Online Experiences:
There are always ways to improve engagement that will drive a higher volume of buying. This is a method not commonly followed because Retailers do not know what data to use and what actions to undertake to repair ineffective online retail experiences.
Retailers have an underperforming “Digital Salesperson” that requires more "sales training".
Applying a series of enhancements to the existing customer experience design is a quick piece of work that can dramatically improve online performance within months. This is always where businesses should start.
#2. Audit Core Platform Experiences – Checkout and Site Search:
This is an extension of Point 1 but is called out separately because most businesses assume their site search logic and checkout experiences are performing to a high standard OR they cannot be enhanced because they are core to the platform.
This could not be further from the truth.
While enhancing checkout experiences requires more planning, enhancing site search experiences is always low hanging fruit and can be enhances quickly.
Research still confirms consumers depend on great site search experiences to help them find relevant products and services in a quick fashion.
Google kicked off this consumer behaviour which is now being reinforced by large retailers like Amazon who do a great job of this.
According to Forrester,
43% of site visitors go immediately to the search box
Auditing and enhancing site search can be quick and translate to immediate revenue lifts.
Auditing and improving checkout experiences is more medium term but when done right, translates big revenue increases.
According to Baymard Institute, 70% of consumers who start a checkout, will not complete a purchase. But with the right approach to checkout experiences, this can improve.
#3. Audit Core Support and Delivery Services:
Auditing core support and delivery services cannot be understated. People will not buy from you, or re-purchase from you if the standard of your services are low. For example, just by having a click and collect offering does not mean its operating to a standard that meets customer needs.
Out of the 100 click and collect offerings audited for medium to large retailers, all 100 had issues that affected customer experiences. This assumption of thinking your services are working to a high standard without an audit to verify this is both dangerous and can affect long term business health.
Depending on the issues, this is both a quick and medium-term fix.
#4. Bolster "Employee Accessibility":
This is about improving the access consumers have to people in the business. This is both support and sales staff.
There is a correlation to employee accessibility and overall online channel performance. The technical term for this is “Service Design” and it’s a part of the “Customer Experience Design”.
Nielsen Norman Group, world specialists in researched based user experiences define "Service Design" as...
Service design improves the experiences of both the user and employee by designing, aligning, and optimizing an organization’s operations to better support customer journeys
Though the online channel is meant to be “self-serve”, no website on this planet can accommodate all consumer needs. This results in the need for human intervention at key moments of consumer journeys. And the consumer needs to control his/her desire to speak to someone: it's on their terms.
The value of "Employee Accessibility" was seen during COVID where in store staff became available to interact with customers. This was one of the reasons conversion rates grew during this time.
This is a quick fix if the business is keen to fix issues but can be a longer-term issue if the culture is resistant to change.
#5. Audit Digital Marketing Conduct from the Agency:
The type of traffic sent to a retail site has a significant impact on performance. Out of 100 audits on Agency conduct, wastage was found 100% of the time.
This is typically not the fault of the Agency, it’s the fault of the retailer not providing adequate briefs to the Agency.
This is a quick fix that translates to big wins.
Once one or more of the above methods are activated they will resolve short term pain, AND continue to add business value for as long as they remain in place.
It's these evolutionary changes that diminish the impact of future potential pain stimuli. What was once a big “pain event” will not be nearly as uncomfortable in the future.
When a body is better prepared for pain stimulus, this adaptation improves overall health and prolongs the life of an individual. The same can be said if one or all of the above five methods are put into action.