The fab four of  Price, Product, Promotion, and Place are sliding down the charts for what it takes to win at retail, replaced by a new sound that’s got consumers dancing in the aisle – Simplicity. As retail thought-leader John Andrews explains.


Both online and bricks ‘n’ mortar stores know that Simplicity has become the new order-winner for retail.

Sam Walton stood the retail landscape on its head by eliminating gimmicks and focusing on a simple strategy – Everyday Low Price (EDLP). While this may not sound like the stuff of Harvard Business School deep business thinkers, it did in fact create the world’s largest retailer and made Mr. Sam the richest man in the world. The laser insight that Sam had from his experience as a small town merchant was that if prices were low, people bought more. It’s a simple economic truth but one that could be leveraged to drive massive revenue, cash flow and the ability to invest in his business to make prices even lower.

This model still holds today and Walmart is far and away the largest retailer in the world, roughly the size of Amazon, Target, Kroger, and Best Buy combined (you can throw in a Macys for good measure). However, low prices are now ubiquitous. The games that retailers played with shoppers for years, which Walmart vanquished, still exist. Coupons, High-Low Pricing, Fake Discounts, etc. etc. are still around, but the majority of shoppers bypass these to simply shop for low prices at Walmart, this was the genius of its strategy. While some shoppers will always chase deals, most are wise to the game and realize the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. Instead of going to a certain store to get a deal one week, and to another store the next, shopping at a place where the price was ALWAYS low, and the overall basket of goods was lower than a blend of hot deals supplemented by higher prices on other items, was simply easier.

The way we shop is changing. A confluence of technology, media, and payment forms is transforming the very definition of a retailer from a store or a place to buy things to any entity that fulfills wants and needs when and where the shopper desires. From apparel to cars to groceries to Big Macs, the base shopper expectation is that there will be declining levels of friction in getting the things they want. While shopping in stores isn’t ending tomorrow, it will be the exception versus the norm for many categories. Brands and retailers alike are thinking about this challenge, and so are a host of players that no one would have considered a retailer just a few years ago.

From Maserati to McDonald’s… Digital is Helping Shoppers Get What They Want.

Google is perhaps the biggest retailer on the planet today. In almost every category, Google is integrating shopping into virtually every search, along with other content, to help its users along their journey. In many categories, it favors ‘near me’ results, as it recognizes the immediacy the searcher is looking for when seeking goods or services. Google must be enjoying the rising battle of VC fueled delivery services fighting for market share and relevancy. Delivery is just one of the growth sectors of emerging retail, as shoppers expect all options to be on the table when they are in “buy” mode.

Walmart is probably best suited to address the multitude of options to drive shopper simplicity. It has added pickup to thousands of locations which sets the stage for delivery. This gives shoppers options for different types of trips, from a stock-up trip that they might visit a store to accomplish, to alcohol delivery for a party. What gives Walmart such an advantage is its physical footprint and ability to flex its various real estate to meet the changing demands of its customers.

Walmart is even focusing its energy on quick convenience trips with its expanded fuel centers which could eventually serve as multi-modal shopping, return and service platforms. Walmart recently opened a new fuel station in Killeen, TX, featuring self-checkout kiosks and freshly baked doughnuts, making it easy to add ancillary basket purchases to a fuel stop. Imagine how it can leverage this to add grocery pickup, and/or returns, on the same trip.

(Image created via Photofy at Killeen, TX Fuel Station Grand Opening)

Accessibility is just one factor in friction, and the entire shopping process from discovery and preference to payment and fulfillment is shifting. Contactless payments are removing friction from transactions, but also providing valuable information and relationship building blocks for the creation of deeper customer loyalty. Amazon’s one-click makes purchasing from its platform almost completely effortless. I’ve often bought a book someone mentioned to me in the midst of a discussion, without interrupting the conversation, using one click. Voice shopping will simplify this even further.

Integrated payments and ordering systems will increasingly become seamless, and for the most part invisible to the shopper. Crypto payment systems are already changing how early adopters shop. Moon, a Fintech startup barely a year old, has an Amazon integration for Bitcoin and other currencies, and is aggressively pursuing other partners from restaurants to Pizza to handmade items on Etsy. Enabled with a pre-approved payment system, or even one that chooses the best payment option, automated ordering and replenishment will make us wonder why we ever thought about buying toothpaste or deodorant… it will just show up when needed.

Simplicity has become the new order-winner for retail. Price, promotion, place, product, all matter (and no amount of simplicity will help a bad product), but friction-free shopping reigns supreme.

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