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Absent vs. Additive: A New Era of Frictionless

Jeff Fromm | Feb 10, 2017 Jeff Fromm 02/10/17

In 2017, the fact that members of the Millennial generation are digitally reliant should be old hat to marketers. After all, they did grow up in an era that barely remembers life without the internet accessible at their fingertips, and they aren’t shy about utilizing digital in all facets of their lives, from entertainment to organization and everything in between.

They aren’t the only ones, either.

Teens today, members of the pivotal Generation Z, are the first generation of consumers to have truly grown up in an era entirely connected by digital technology. Beginning in early childhood, if they did not know the answer to a question, they were taught to “Google it” or, even better, “ask Siri.” And as technology continues to rapidly evolve, the things that were once considered groundbreaking advances for Boomers and Gen X are taken for granted by this group and Millennials.

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As a result, a smartphone is no longer a piece of technology – it is a part of life. Gen Z and Millennial consumers alike are not amazed by the latest release because they now expect the functionality and ease of use that such products are intended to deliver.

This perpetuates the demand for a Frictionless Journey that exists in the market today. Because of heightened expectations based on digital innovation, Millennials and Gen Z consumers demand the conveyance of a seamless customer experience at every touch point with brands, whether in-person or online, that has little or no barriers to purchase.

Many brands now strive to be as accessible and frictionless as possible, and while they are on the right track, they have to go further. Ease and efficiency alone are no longer enough to win customer loyalty and love.

This means that the consumer journey must maintain the removal of friction points in terms of simplicity of use and access, but it must also add emotion to the overall experience. Why is this significant? Emotion leads to memory creation, and the creation of a great memory will be relived over and over again. These memories are what truly enable customers to develop love and loyalty to a brand, and there is no denying that in present times, loyalty is quite difficult for brands to come by.

“Your brand has to work in all the ways it’s expected to – but what elevates it to the level of being memorable?” says Karen Faith, Director of Empathy and Intelligence at Barkley. “Your dining room table has to be clean, but it is the brand’s responsibility to put something memorable on that table.”

Faith and colleague Cady Bean-Smith, Experience Design Director, lead the Barkley innovation practice. A main focus for their clients is brand vitality, which is the process of creating strength and energy for a brand by encouraging consumers to elect to be part of the brand (lock on) versus face feeling like they have to connect with the brand (lock in). In their experience, consumers are more likely to lock onto a brand that creates a shared memory through emotion in addition to providing ease and efficiency throughout the consumer journey. Too often, brands define frictionless as ease and efficiency but they are missing the ever important emotional aspect that truly drives brand love.

“We should no longer think about frictionless as the ultimate goal,” says Bean-Smith. “Rather, it is a means to another end. For us, that end is the memorable experience. And we get there by connecting emotionally.”

The brands that assume this new aim of frictionless and evolve their experience innovation based on it will be the ones that win.

We’re excited to share this topic and more actionable brand practices for driving consumer engagement on stage at Forum 2017. Learn more about the event.

Jeff Fromm, President at Futurecast
Skyler Huff, Content Specialist at Barkley