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10 tips for designing commerce experiences for the majority

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Though I live in a small town in Wisconsin, I spend my working days traveling or in cyberspace with with colleagues, partners and customers from around the world. The Wall Street Journal recently named my town, Wausau, as the “Most Middle Class City in the United States.” While still on the forefront of technology, I’m able to witness how average Americans in a town of 39,000 in a mostly rural area interact with the technology that companies in technology hubs like Silicon Valley and Berlin build.

Consider these personal observations from where I live:

  • Many people still pay for gas with cash.
  • Many people over the age of 40 still don’t have smartphones or send text messages.
  • Paper checks are still a common way of paying for groceries.
  • As resident IT guru for friends and family, I see many people re-use the same simple password across every single account they own – and see no reason why they shouldn’t.
  • I have close family members who still pay for AOL.

My day-to-day life is considerably different from many of my colleagues who live and work in technology hubs, where you’d be looked at as crazy if you tried to pay with a check at a grocery store. It’s a very different world.

Technology is adopted in five distinct waves, according to Everett Rogers in his seminal 1962 book “The Diffusion of Innovations.” Those five waves are: innovators (2.5 percent), early adopters (13.5 percent), early majority (34 percent), late majority (34 percent) and laggards (16 percent). Tech hubs and coastal cities are populated by innovators and early adopters, which together include only 16 percent of the total addressable market. Rural Wisconsin includes many in the late majority and laggard waves, which together total 50 percent of the market.

For commerce-related technology to be more widely adopted, the innovators (2.5 percent) need to stop building products exclusively for the innovators and early adopters. Think Wausau, Wisconsin, not Palo Alto, California.

Here are 10 insights for designing commerce solutions that better appeal to the mass market:

1)    Be latency and bandwidth-aware.  Large swaths of the U.S. lack access to high quality broadband. To serve these customers, test your applications with hundreds of milliseconds of additional latency artificially injected. Also, keep smartphone applications to a reasonable size and limit the number of updates. Many rural broadband plans have 5 or 10 gigabyte monthly data limit caps, so multi-hundred megabyte updates a few times a month can really eat up someone’s data plan.

2)    Deliver value over convenience. Innovators and early adopters are happy to pay for convenience over value. Expensive food delivery services, self-driving Teslas, and $700 “smart locks” are examples of convenience-oriented products. However, the early and late majority are firmly rooted in value-oriented products, often as a reflection of their values.

3)    Bring commerce to them. Many of the early and late majority are not active desktop users. You must bring commerce to their everyday lives, meaning investments in mobile, IoT devices, display/print advertising, smart kiosks and other touchpoints that don’t require a desktop or webstore visit.

4)    Support the long tail. Innovators and early adopters tend to be the first to buy new hardware and software. However, for people whose lives don’t revolve around technology, having the latest applications isn’t a priority. Your commerce solution must support older hardware, display resolutions and software applications. Think Windows Vista, not Mac Mojave.

5)    Eliminate log-ins and passwords. Few people outside of the innovator and early adopter set will have a password management strategy and many won’t remember lengthy password combinations.  Asking people to log in to browse or check out is often a no-go. Instead, allow for social sign-on since most people have at least one social media provider.

6)    Reduce checkout friction. Friction is anything in the checkout process that slows or stops a user from completing an order, such as log-ins and passwords. The checkout process is often littered with friction that stops the early and late majority from completing orders including account setup, excessive shipping costs, loyalty offers, up-sells and unnecessary information collection.

7)    Tie online sales back to physical stores. People just getting used to e-commerce want comfort in knowing they can still visit traditional stores to complement their online purchases. Seamless omnichannel is especially important for the early and late majority who just want things to work with an experience that is the same, regardless of where they shop.

8)    Pay attention to accessibility. Keep in mind that with the early and late majorities, not everybody is running the latest MacBook Pro, nor can they easily read size 10 font on a screen. When selling to these groups, the full experience absolutely must be accessible to everyone.

9)    Favor stability over functionality. Innovators and early adopters have few problems with errors, but products that the early and late majority use generally are bug-free by the time they hit the mass market. An error is enough to stop buying action, and they may never come back.

10)    Integrate commerce with social media. Use social media to reach your customers where they are — advertise, incentivize and offer integrations with social media payment providers. Social media can offer a great transition for people new to e-commerce.

Retailers and brands have a tremendous opportunity to attract new and loyal customers when they expand their sights and design for the consumer populations who are just beginning to realize the benefits and opportunities that digital commerce brings to their world.

Republished with permission from Retail Customer Experience.

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