Marketers talk a fierce game about seamless channels and effortless interfaces. But for many brands, multiple channels translate into mass confusion. That’s why consumers crave less instead of more: Siegel+Gale's latest Simplicity Index finds that 63% of consumers say they’re willing to pay extra for simpler experiences, and 69% say they’re more likely to recommend simple brands.
Marketing Daily caught up with Leesa Wytock, director of digital activation for the brand strategy company, to find out why simplicity is so elusive.
Q. Consumers see cool digital things all the time. What’s the key to creating an experience that impresses them? What’s the current digital ideal?
A. I don't think that quote from Arthur C. Clarke ever gets old: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” There is that aspect of awe and wonder. And when we’re creating things, it’s easy to forget technology can have that kind of impact. Google Now continues to blow me away, for example. I love Poncho, a weather app. And one of my current favorites is Everlane, a clothing company. It doesn't just make it easier to shop, it’s got this beautiful interface. Using local weather, it makes suggestions about what to buy, which I can have delivered in less than an hour. When I put something in my cart on my phone, it knows to move to my desktop.
Q. So it’s important that these
simple digital experiences also be beautiful?
A. No. Increasingly, they’ll be invisible, and consumers will come to expect that more and more. I like Digit, the savings app, as an example. You do have to set it up when you begin. But after that, the interface becomes invisible. Talk about simple -- you don’t even have to click on the app to use it. It all happens behind the scenes.
Q. Which areas are most in need of simplicity makeovers?
A. The financial and banking industries. It was interesting to see two simple companies advertise in the Super Bowl, for example, with the “Don’t Bank. SoFi” ad for that alternative lender, and then Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage. (Granted, that one created some brand outrage.) But probably the biggest opportunities are in the industry that’s most important — healthcare.
It’s very frustrating for customers that Amazon knows more about them than their doctors’ office. Providers can’t even connect the dots, and consumers don't like that. They’re thinking, “You are my doctors — you should be talking to each other.” You’ll see more and more challenger brands pushing into that territory as a result.
Q. Yeah, about that. It seems like it always takes a challenger brand to start a wave of digital improvement. Is it possible for stodgy old legacy brand to find simplicity without a shove?
A. Yes. They have all the sway and all the power. All these big brands are taking baby steps, in their own way. They’re starting innovation labs, for example. And they’re borrowing pages from tech companies — Walmart is a good example. It’s taken many ideas from Amazon and used them on its Web site, and customers like it.
Q. On the road to simplicity, what usually trips larger brands up?
A. Technology. There was a time, about two years ago, when many large brands were saying “we need an app strategy.” Now it's all “we need a mobile strategy.” The question should always be “what do your customers need that they aren't getting?” So they'll get excited about beacons or near-field communication. But I don't need a beacon to tell me I need boots, for example. Brands need to think about humans first, and then technology.
Do luxury brands a different kind of simplicity?
A. Yes. They’ve typically established some very high expectations, often on a person-to-person basis—like the way someone at Nordstrom never hands you the bag over the counter, but comes around the desk to put it in your hand. So how do you recreate that digitally? For these brands, it’s about giving customers what they’ve come to expect but then surprising them. Burberry continues to be the gold standard in digital luxury, combining innovation, like shoppable fashion shows with its prestige.
Q. How about mass brands?
A. Target is an example of a brand that has learned a lot. It’s introducing beacons to people who have already downloaded the app, for example — people who want that kind of communication. It’s focusing on what those devoted shoppers wants.
Q. So how can marketers pare back?
A. It is so easy to go overboard, because the technology allows for a great deal of customization and personalization. But many brands suffer from too much of that — too many choices. It can be a big turnoff. People really do want something simpler. Just because you can do something digitally doesn’t mean you should. Choices need to be simple and relevant.