Welcome to the ‘appointment economy’
Regardless of socioeconomic status, the consumer experience is going to transform into one centered around personalization and one-to-one interaction. The ‘appointment economy,’ stimulated by COVID-19 social distancing practices, will soon impact every industry and become ‘the norm.’
My favorite Vladimir Lenin quote applies perfectly to COVID-19 (and every major crises that has come before it, and likely to every crises yet to come): “There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.”
Welcome to the appointment economy
The COVID-19 pandemic is acting – and will continue to do so – like an accelerant with regard to how industries are reacting, adapting, and innovating. A major example of this is the appointment economy, an approach already embraced by high-end retailers and restaurants as a way to offer exclusive and bespoke experiences to those willing to pay a premium price. Only now, we’ll see this across the board, at every price point.
As the nation opens up, we’re likely to see large chains and small businesses alike move to a largely appointment-based economy in order to follow social distancing mandates. Instead of simply walking into a brick and mortar clothing retailer, consumers will schedule an appointment to meet with a personal shopper who will usher them around the sparsely stocked store filled with only a handful of other shoppers. While fast food drive-thrus will operate as usual and mobile ordering and carry-out will increase, dine-in options at fast casuals will require reservations with limited availability. When it comes to grocery shopping, some consumers will continue to use the convenience of online delivery services, while others will make an appointment and shop in-store during an allotted window. We may even see the expansion of Amazon Go stores increase at a faster pace as Americans prefer to avoid human contact altogether.
Opportunity for financial services
While almost all major FIs are already doing this to a great extent, we will see almost universal adoption of the appointment model moving forward. If a consumer wants to go to a Bank of America branch, no matter what service they are interested in, they will schedule an appointment and complete their entire transaction from start to finish with one individual.
This is an opportunity for FIs to offer true relationship-based banking. If consumers see their banker frequently and schedule appointments with them specifically, they will be more likely to move all their investments to that one institution. The key to driving increased engagement and loyalty from the consumer is pairing them with the same banker – similar to how consumers will book an appointment with a hairstylist or physician based on the stylist’s or physician’s availability to ensure they are paired with someone they know and like.
Adapting to new consumer behaviors and embracing the future of customer relations means bank branches cannot operate as call centers; rather they need to revert back to how banking used to be – more personal and experiential. The difference now is that, in addition to calling their preferred banker, consumers also have a mobile app and access to an ATM, which combined should be sufficient for 99% of their banking needs.
Why this time is not different
Similar to every crisis, there are structural changes that will take place; the current crisis is forcing an appointment economy. Consumer and industry trends were already pointing in this direction; consumers were demanding better experiences and seeking exclusivity. Now, they will be doing a lot of things in private – whether they wanted to or not.
The sooner industries embrace the appointment-based economy and create better experiences for their customers, the quicker they can manage the situation and move forward.