This article originally appeared in The Drum.
Simplicity is the baseline for the modern consumer experience, and the last two years have thrown that fact into sharp relief. Given the complexity of this current era – due to a pandemic, climate crisis, and political and social strife – many people feel that the path forward is increasingly unclear. Furthermore, they appear to have lost trust in political institutions and the media. In response, people have placed their trust in brands, particularly brands that are easy to understand; transparent and honest; caring for and meeting their needs; innovative and fresh; and useful. In short, brands that are simple.
Simplicity is a defining characteristic of brands that lead the market. Year after year, our hallmark World’s Simplest Brands study has shown this to be true. This year was no different.
In its ninth edition, our study ranks the leading brands on simplicity, asking more than 15,000 people across nine countries which brands and industries provide the simplest experiences, ultimately reducing stress and improving consumers’ lives everywhere.
Google led the global rankings, followed by Netflix, German grocer Lidl, YouTube and another German grocer, Aldi. In the United States, Amazon was named the simplest brand, followed by streaming services Hulu and Netflix. Costco and Google rounded out the top five.
What do these brands have in common? Simplicity is the origin, process and goal of every user interaction. And these brands provided it during the pandemic, at a time when consumers needed simplicity the most.
Consumers want simple brands – and say so with their wallets
Unsurprisingly, the brands that consumers feel most favorably toward help them eliminate unnecessarily complex experiences from their lives. Our study found that 76% of consumers were more likely to recommend a brand that delivers simple experiences, compared to 64% in the eighth edition of our study.
And not only did 57% of consumers say they would pay a premium for simpler interactions with brands, but the amount they would pay for simplicity rose from our previous study – four times as much, in fact.
Brands gain an exceptional marketplace opportunity by simplifying their business models to focus on user experience. The proof? Since 2009, a stock portfolio composed of the publicly traded simplest brands in our Global Top 10 has consistently outperformed the major indexes, showing an aggregate growth rate of 1,841%.
A $402bn missed opportunity
Although the ongoing global health crisis has caused many leading brands to increase their focus on customer experience with a new urgency, other large companies have failed to enact the kind of rapid changes that would improve customer experience universally.
Our research shows that brands may be losing access to approximately $402bn in sales due to complex user experiences.
For example, large retailers that focus exclusively on online customer experiences without ensuring that every consumer-brand interaction (including those in-store) is simple and friction-free ultimately alienate customers when their in-store pick-up process is complex – even if their initial customer experience is stellar. Consumers rarely revisit stores that fail to deliver on fundamental brand promises as consistently online as they do in-store, and that failure creates a market opportunity for competitors.
How to get simple – fast
If leaving revenue on the table isn’t appealing, there’s good news: simple doesn’t have to be difficult. Upon reviewing our simplicity index, the top-performing brands leaned into three key trends. Here’s what they are and how to take advantage of them.
1) Climate-conscious innovation
Brands recognize that consumers care about how their goods and services are created, processed and delivered. But that doesn’t mean that consumers don’t care about simplicity and convenience. They want both.
When you embark on climate-conscious initiatives, make sure that they’re connected naturally to your brand – and that they will have a positive impact. Make it simple for your audience to participate in your conservation efforts, and monitor your own efforts so you can share your wins as they happen.
2) Shop ‘glocal’
Glocalization is about translating a global brand in a local setting. Our index’s top-performing brands bring the best elements of digital experiences – simplicity, efficiency and intuitive design – to deepen the value consumers receive from localized shopping experiences.
To make local experiences more simple and engaging, look for technology and partnerships that raise the local profile of your brand. Research what your consumers love about local merchants and suppliers, and decide how your global brand aligns with those values.
3) Home screen home
Consumers don’t lose their taste for simplicity once they leave their desktops. Savvy brands bring simplicity to both in-person and online interactions.
If you have touchpoints online and in real life, ensure that your customer experiences connect to and simplify in-store visits. Use technology to remove complexity from consumer interactions that start online. Remember: it’s essential to be user-friendly, but you have to do it at scale.
Consumers have moved on from complexity – your brand should too.
Consumers don’t need bells and whistles – they want their needs met on demand. Every innovation should be viewed through the prism of user experience and simplicity. Avoid complicated new features and focus on getting the job done.
Brian Rafferty is Global Director of Business Analytics and Insights.