We spoke to Ron Johnson, founder and CEO of Enjoy, the personal commerce platform, about how Enjoy is making online shopping personal again. He talked to us about improving the customer experience in a world that’s all about speed and convenience—and how today’s retailers can survive the shift to digital.
What can you tell us about ecommerce today? How is Enjoy changing the online shopping experience?
Enjoy's a new company we launched about a year ago. We call ourselves a personal commerce platform. We think it's the next paradigm in how people shop.
Stores have about a thousand-year head start on ecommerce, which has only been around for about 20 years. But ecommerce, as we all know, is very limited. It's focused on the convenience of buying. There are times we need help, and a personal commerce company like Enjoy delivers a person with a product. It provides customer service in the place you're going to use the product for the same price as buying from Amazon or a store.
We're focused on consumer electronics to start, since they can be complex and require a lot of connectivity. You can go to our website, order a product, and then just pick a time and a place. In as little as four hours, one of our experts will show up to spend about an hour with you to get you up and running. We do that for free, so it's a good buying experience.
We deliver people, and we provide an experience. There are a handful of products in our lives that you need help with. There might be high-end apparel. There might be healthcare products, like a blood pressure monitor. Any product where there's complexity or you need help is an opportunity for a company like Enjoy.
“There’s nothing better than face-to-face help, but because we’re in a mobile economy now, you have to figure out how to connect people.”
— Ron Johnson, founder and CEO, Enjoy
What changes have you seen in customer shopping behavior in the last few years?
There are a couple of trends happening right now. One, stores have increasingly become less important in the customer shopping behavior. Customers visit stores less frequently and buy from stores less frequently. They’re shifting online and to a mobile purchase process.
The second thing going on is the smartphone, which has really created freedom. And that freedom is showing up in how people want to work today. There are 20 million people who drive for companies like Uber and do errands for companies like Postmates. Young people want the freedom to work when and where they want. The problem is that the service component of a retail experience is still trapped in a physical store. So how do you take advantage of this world where people want to be mobile, but they still need help. How do you find a way to deliver service in a new way?
I’m an old physical retail guy, and we always used to think of location as where you put the store. In the new economy, you think of location as where the product's going to be used. For instance, if you can be in someone's house when they buy a Nest thermostat, you can set it up, pair it to their phone, and show them how to control it. It’s a very different service experience than trying to explain how to do that from the aisle of a Home Depot store.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities retailers are facing in the digital age? How is customer service changing in the mobile economy?
A lot of the application economy today is about speed and convenience, and that's a really good thing. But I think people have got to rethink what the purpose of the store is in a world where it's so convenient to just click online and have a product delivered to your door. When you go to a store today, it's very transactional. There's not a lot of help. It’s not an end-to-end customer experience.
If you’re going to succeed in a physical environment, you've got to extend the experience and reinvent it. And the hard part is providing the help customers need. There's nothing better than face-to-face help, but because we're in a mobile economy now, you have to figure out how to connect people.
I'm nervous about the retail industry. The big retailers are all trying to develop the tools to compete online. And they're investing a lot in infrastructure to improve their Web shopping experience and the in-store experience. But they're largely looking at it from a technology perspective. What they've got to think about is what's going to change the experience from a customer perspective. Retailers need to think about reinventing the art of buying first—and then determine what technology they need to do that. I just worry that people are spending way too much time on the electronic portion and not trying to think about how they come together to create an experience that's magic.
What role does human communication play in the purchase process today?
Steve Jobs always said, "Technology is at its best when it gets out of the way." And that's why Apple products are designed so simply, with elegant hardware and easy-to-use software—because it's all about how you're going to use that product to integrate your life and really improve human connection.
That's what technology should do. At its best, it enables better human connection. And we've got to do that in a retail environment. Most retailers today are eliminating connection because they can't afford to do it. Amazon is the art of zero connection and ultimate convenience, and that’s good for certain things. We all know how to buy toilet paper. We know how to put the roll on. It's not very complicated.
But what if you buy a product that requires a little more help? Well, that's going to require a human connection. And that's what we're trying to do at Enjoy. We think the world's ready for it.
We think we're going to succeed in improving human connection as part of the purchase process. That's what great technology should do. It lets you be a better version of who you are.