How the evolution of customer interfaces is saving brands from extinction

Interface
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From complex to simple, from one-button to zero-button - does your brand understand the importance of its customer interfaces?

User interfaces are playing an increasingly important role at every stage of the customer journey today. From pre-sales, through sales and even into after-sales, processes are becoming increasingly slick and the evolution is moving fast.

User interfaces are evolving from complex to simple, and from automated to augmented. Almost every major technology platform in the world is investing resources into developing their interfaces to help make the lives of consumers as easy as possible, while many companies that perhaps don't have the same kind of ‘digital DNA’ and have focused their efforts on simply building their brand are now being left behind.

From complex interfaces to simple interfaces

Most readers will remember a time when all interfaces were much more complex. Thinking back to the 1990s, you needed to be a nerd to work with MS-DOS, but today, technology has never been more intuitive to use.

In recent years, we have all got used to one-button interfaces, or apps that allow you to order anything, from a pizza to a car, with just a single press of a button.

The iPhone was the first technology product that didn’t need to come with a help function or an inch-thick instruction manual, and it paved the way for wave after wave of devices that can now be picked up and used in minutes. Think about how long you will persist with a new app you have downloaded – you’ll maybe give it 30 seconds to prove itself, and if you don't understand or enjoy it, it will quickly be deleted or forgotten.

In recent years, we have all got used to one-button interfaces, or apps that allow you to order anything, from a pizza to a car, with just a single press of a button. When the Tesla 3 was launched, the Tesla website also had a single button with a single large word: 'BUY'. Simplicity has become the new norm in the second phase of digitalisation.

Can an interface save a brand?

In March 2012, the Belgian bank Dexia changed its name to Belfius. The financial crisis had a huge impact on confidence in the brand, so they had to work hard to rebuild consumer trust.

One of the keys to this revival was the bank’s mobile-first strategy. While many still had their doubts about the bank, the first users of the Belfius mobile app quickly became its most satisfied customers. The Belfius management recognised this and decided to play the mobile-first card wholeheartedly, and consequently, a benchmark report by McKinsey in 2016 concluded that, although it might not be the most famous banking brand, Belfius was the fastest growing player in the world in terms of mobile banking.

Although it might not be the most famous banking brand, Belfius was the fastest growing player in the world in terms of mobile banking.

Like all the best interfaces, the Belfius app has continued to develop and improve and today you can apply for a credit card, have your card activated abroad and alter your credit limit, all with just a single click. This increased ease of use has led to a significant growth in Belfius credit cards sales, with one in three new credit cards now sold through the mobile channel, and an incredibly 36% of pensions set up through the app.

The message is clear: mobile simplicity and real-time solutions lead to high levels of satisfaction and conversion.

From simple to automated interfaces

The next step in the evolution of interfaces – from ‘one-button’ to ‘zero-button’ – is even more interesting. When customers no longer need to do anything at all, expectations and behaviours will start to shift again.

Smart central heating systems and services to automatically rebook missed flights are good examples of 'zero-button' applications, but so too is the app Starbucks launched in 2017.

This app allows customers to give their orders verbally, the bot sends the order though to the relevant shop and the coffee is ready when the customer walks through the door. Payment is made automatically and it is all done hands-free, without a single click involved.

The next step in the evolution of interfaces – from ‘one-button’ to ‘zero-button’ – is even more interesting.

And the reality is that this is what today's consumers have come to expect. In a world where time is the consumer's scarcest resource, every second counts - which makes this kind of interface worth its weight in gold.

Amazon Go is an offline retail experiment where everything works via automatic interfaces. The customer scans his Amazon app when they enter the store. He/she then selects the goods they want from the shelves, puts them into their bag and walk away. With no cash desk it almost feels like shoplifting, but payment is fully automatic. The technology is impressive, but it is not the most important thing – the impact on the customer is what really matters, and that impact is huge!

By using technology to remove all the aspect of shopping that people don’t like – queuing, paying, loading up carrier bags – even offline retailers can develop interfaces that will completely shift customer expectations.

You don't need to be a management genius to work out what eliminating customers’ pain points can do for the turnover of a retailer, and in the day after tomorrow, it could make the difference between survival and extinction for a brand.

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his new book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com

About Steven Van Belleghem

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