When a company’s vision is to offer “Earth’s biggest selection and to be Earth’s most customer-centric company”, they’ve got some big shoes to fill. Due to the popularity of the term “customer-centric”, everybody’s been claiming they’re dedicated on the customer, however, are their real-time activities supporting this claim?
Amazon’s Vice President of External Payments, Patrick Gauthier is not in agreement with the statement that everybody is truly focused on the customer, as too many are obsessed by the industry lingo, too fixated on generating the next big cash cow, and repeatedly overlooking who’s voice it is that they are representing, namely that of the consumer and the merchant. Payments and commerce leaders should analyze the situation with a customer-first mentality in this industry in order to enter into true innovation.
“Start with the customer and work backwards.”
Most companies claim they begin their processes with the consumer in mind, however in amidst of the translation, the lingo which is used in the industry – that of the insiders, in essence keeps innovation away from the vision, as the true message appearing in the lingo of the consumer is lost in translation. Gauthier perspective, also shared by payments, commerce and retail experts at Innovation Project 2015, proposes a backward motion of customer-first mentality in seeking what a business model needs to solve. For example, every Amazon product manager is known to write and internal press release, which focuses on the problem of the customer and the current solution they are offering and how this offering fails. Following this, the managers write down every single benefit that the new product will provide to this problem, and will not stop until the benefits will be of interest for the customer. They stay that the money will follow once the company focuses on what the customer truly want. In this new era, having the perspective of a customer-focused company is surpassing having a financial perspective. Starting with the consumer in the back of your mind and going backwards, thus focusing on what a company believes the business model is intended to solve, as this will deliver diverse methods of serving those customer needs. Innovation can occur quickly, but more importantly, instead of focusing on the speeds, it is more significant that innovation happens right as well as for the right target audience.
How to approach this according to Gauthier:
- Being part of more dialogues with outsiders
- Connecting to the merchant and consumer
- Having more conversations that are focused on actual consumer needs
- Conversing less regarding payments
- Conversing more about the commerce experience
Drop the industry jargon
When the industry jargon is dropped, a focus can be given to consumer identity and true innovation, and in turn enables a full customer experience. Companies can only provide this by forming an open setting of transparency, enabled through conversations. Listen and acknowledge who the consumer is, and it will answers how the consumer prefers to pay will come to the surface. This in turn has the potential to open gateways to a richer commerce experience for the company as well as the customer.
Botch the customer and the merchants in essence want be part of a commerce experience, in contrast to a payment experience. Gauthier states that companies need to focus less on payments and more on the individuals that are making the transactions. He discusses identity and economics in the same sentence, as he believes it is pivotal.
“Who I am [as a consumer] is pretty key to what I’m going to do. Today, the economics is very centered around how I pay. And maybe at some point the economics should be centered, or certainly migrated, not with just so much just how I pay, but who I am. The who I am, and the willingness to share who I am — what I choose to share — should potentially change the economics of a transaction.”
– Patrick Gauthier, Amazon’s VP of External Payments
Both identity and payment experience are part of the commerce experience. Yet, from the merchants’ side, the occurring conversations focus on the payments side. The downside of this occurrence is that it diminishes the key role of the retail and commerce experience during the transaction stage, loosing out on the important achieving merchant-centric experience.
The industry is battling with conflicts due to having opposing viewpoints, on how payments and commerce ought to be engaged into the consumer experience. This tension of sort is a result of commerce innovation is completely being overtaken by payments innovation, similar to the example of a current successful business model Uber.
“The [retail] industry needs to embrace customer-centricity in order to really get to what it can be in the next 10 years.”
– Patrick Gauthier, Amazon’s VP of External Payments
Many views, and opinions from payments-, retail- and commerce sectors as well as managers with innovative perspectives are opening up discussion points. What is essentially needed though is a dialogue regarding what and who these individuals are actually chatting about.
Pymts (2015) “Amazon’s customer-centric Focus.” pymnts.com. 24 Mar. 2015. Web. <http://www.pymnts.com/in-depth/2015/whos-talking-about-innovation/#.VT0yIxOUee4>.
McAllister, Ian. (2012) “What Is Amazon’s Approach to Product Development and Product Management?” Quora.com, 18 May 2012. Web. <http://www.quora.com/What-is-Amazons-approach-to-product-development-and-product-management>.
Bulygo, Z. “Becoming a Customer Centric Company” 9 June 2014. Web. <https://blog.kissmetrics.com/customer-centric-company>