Simply put, we’re living in the ‘age of now’. The proliferation of smartphone technology has made us accustomed to always-on connectivity. We are frustrated when we have to wait one second for a video to buffer. And online shopping has transformed retail operating hours, allowing purchase at any time, any day.
This trend to ‘now’ is translating into how consumers are interacting with products and services. For instance, it’s no longer acceptable to take many hours to respond to a customer query; a delayed communication in respect of any negative publicity is viewed as an admission of guilt; and, if your stock is not replenished in time, consumers speak with their feet, thumbs or mouse pad.
These demanding times call for brands to be more ‘on-demand’. What does this mean? Well, Uber is a prime example of an on-demand service. . Prior to its launch in South Africa specifically, you would have to look up a cab service; call it; wait nervously for a driver to arrive and worry if you have enough cash to cover the journey. With Uber, all this is achieved through a cashless, location-based mobile app. It is not surprising, therefore, that Uber has received rave reviews. Uber has been particularly successful locally by addressing a true consumer need – an efficient alternative for those seeking to get around cities without having to rely on a public transport network fraught with issues.
But Uber is just one example. A whole range of new brands have tapped into on-demand trends and are gaining significant traction as a result. Any brand which is not ‘uber-fying’ part of its value chain is looking outdated and obsolete.
Consider Wumdrop, a new on-demand courier service operating in Cape Town and Johannesburg. With its alternative pricing methods, accelerated in- and out-bound delivery, and disregard for traditional weigh bills and bulky packaging, Wumdrop is designed to break down the complexity and hassle that often surrounds traditional courier methods.
Another on-demand example is SweepSouth, a local home cleaning service offering the services of a domestic worker without the homeowner needing to lift a phone. SweepSouth’s interactive website allows you to select the specific cleaning services you need and then calculates the time it would take and estimates the cost. It’s simple, clear and easy. Also, because SweepSouth does all the background checks and screenings, it’s designed to be a worry-free service every step of the way.
Further North West, Nigerian-based Washist has also gone on-demand. Like Wumdrop and SweepSouth, Washist offers a laundry service at the click of a mouse, taking the hassle out of mundane chores and changing the way people in Nigeria do laundry.
The impressive uptake of these services has to make brand and marketing managers sit up and take note. Fair enough, not all brands and services have the liberty to reengineer their business models to be fully ‘on-demand’, but there are some key principles to consider operating in this ‘age of now’. The fact that some heavily established brands have tapped into these principles is testament that on-demand is possible for all.
So then what does it take for a brand to be more ‘on-demand’?
· Cut out the pain. On-demand Washist’s appeal comes from its ability to eliminate the hassle of dropping off and collecting your laundry (or even doing it yourself!). Therefore, a brand needs to think about its customers’ journey in today’s demanding times – even if the pain has become convention! For example, iconic Ster-Kinekor has implemented mobile ticketing methods that can be sent to an app or printed at home, making it on-demand by removing the pain of a long queue.
· Remove the time lag. On-demand denotes instant; and WumDrop is a perfect exemplar with a courier ‘hero’ literally appearing within minutes. Even Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile network, has become more on-demand by removing time lags. With its Online Live Chat system, it allows you to interact with a customer service consultant within seconds – truly defying what a customer would expect from such a large company.
· Personal is power. Part of the strength of on-demand lies in the fact that the broader service connects people. How many people actually remember the name of the delivery guy when using a conventional service provider? Whether it’s your Uber driver, Saul, or your WumDrop Hero, Roy, you now feel personally connected to the person providing the service. Online retailer, Yuppiechef, employs the same strategy to a very positive consumer response. By employing dedicated staff to write special messages to customers for every order, they’ve brought the brand alive to the end user.
· New means of delivery require new means of payment. Cashless is king with on-demand, and part of the hassle with traditional service providers often lies in their cash only solutions. Alternative, easier payments systems are necessary to become more on-demand. For example, coffee retailer, Vida e Caffé recently partnered with FlickPay, a cashless, mobile app-based system, to allow users to purchase their coffee even when their wallet may be in their car or desk drawer.
· Simple functionality. Whether it’s Uber or SweepSouth, a critical component of any technology-led service is simplicity and the removal of the overwhelming factor of technology. If you want to be on-demand, the order and purchase process has to be easy – complexity and confusion makes consumers close apps. Dstv has managed to stay fresh with its on-demand movie and Catchup offering which is simple for anyone to use.
As the world continues to innovate and the pace of life keeps accelerating, on-demand brands will continue to prosper. It’s imperative that brands, new and established, should think about their customer journeys and touch points, to make their brand more ‘on-demand’. Now is the best time to become an ‘age of now’ brand.