E-commerce is fast-emerging as a go-to form of virtual sales, and even the likes of Amazon and eBay must be glancing over their shoulders at its continued development.
Its popularity (which has been on the exponential rise since the early 2000s) is currently being bolstered by the seemingly irrepressible power of social media, which shows absolutely no signs of slowing or abating.
Furthermore it is also being served well by the focus it places on interactive experiences, consumer relationships and branding advantages - all of which are of increased importance to consumers at the moment.
In fact, Digital Commerce 360 reports that a decade ago, e-commerce accounted for a mere 8% of total retail purchases in the US. Whereas online sales now represent nearly 20% of spending through all channels.
Add the ‘pandemic effect’ to this, which pushed us all online in a way never seen before, and you get an even brighter moment in the sun for e-commerce, which has seen further growth of about 4% in the last two years.
As a result, brands are now (rightly) more focused on innovative and creative ways to engage their customers online, and make the whole experience more of an… experience.
Augmented Reality, augmented customer engagement
As with all emerging platforms and technologies, as consumers become more accustomed to e-commerce, their expectations and demands are expanding. So not only do you need to get on board this train, you need to be able to master it.
Browsing and buying online are now basic requirements - now, consumers are looking for immersive experiences, such as being able to ‘virtually’ try before they buy, using the power of Augmented Reality (AR).
To back this up, a recent study from Snap Inc (which owns Snapchat), Publicis Media and Alter Agents (a French market research consultancy), surveyed 4,028 shoppers under the age of 50 who have used AR whilst shopping.
Respondents from the UK, US, France and Saudi Arabia were asked what they thought about the ability to view their potential purchases in a ‘real world’ setting and effectively try them on for size from the comfort of their home.
The results showed that this approach was hugely popular, and suggested it has huge potential for growth in the very near future.
Key findings from the study included:
“When buying products online, shoppers want to make sure they’re making a purchase that they will ultimately be happy with, and AR unlocks a huge opportunity when it comes to buyer confidence because of the advancements in fit and placement technology,” says Dave Roter, vice president of global agency partnerships at Snap Inc.
“Immersive customer experiences using AR are helping our advertisers sell more products while driving more long-term customer value.”
According to Sourcing Journal, virtualized experiences stand to have a marked impact on apparel sell-through, with 74 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to purchase after using an AR experience going forward.
Seventy percent said that AR could sway them to purchase more retail products across the board. Snap Inc.’s study values AR technology at a whopping $1.2 trillion by 2030, as it “is fast-becoming a necessity in every brand’s omnichannel roadmap.”
The retail tech has “continually proven its value for shoppers as a way to show how a brand or product can fit within their lives,” according to Helen Lin, chief digital officer at Publicis Groupe.
She said virtual try-on and 360-degree product demonstrations decreased the need for in-person transactions by 25 percent as surveyed shoppers felt more informed and confident in their web purchases.
User Experience at the heart of getting it right
Most retailers continuously review their e-commerce data, taking a closer look at customer behaviour to make new discoveries or identify problems in the customer experience. But according to MarTech Series, there’s much more to it than that.
“A lot can be learned by looking beyond cart abandonment data or the number of delivery forms not being completed. The smartest retailers ask, ‘why is this happening and what’s driving it?’ Most importantly, they look at the science of consumer behaviour and use it to avoid frustrating customers in the future by improving the experience.”
With fierce competition for a seamless online shopping experience, psychology may have a lot to offer retailers hoping to understand what motivates consumers, or better yet, what frustrates them to the point of abandonment.
For example, how does retail frustration manifest and what are its most common drivers?
To answer these questions, Loqate teamed up with the psychology department at Goldsmiths University and neuroscientist, and author of Sort Your Brain Out, Dr. Jack Lewis, to measure how our brains and bodies respond to online shopping experiences.
The study observed a range of potentially frustrating scenarios, or those that would yield the emotional state a consumer experiences when trying to reach a goal only to encounter an obstacle that temporarily or permanently thwarts their progress.
So, what are these frustrations and how can you avoid them?
Here are five top tips:
1. Check out your checkout experience
The study found that 44% of consumers who have a poor checkout experience won’t return, meaning that the devil is in the details for retailers seeking customer loyalty.
2. Address the address issue
If customers get their address wrong (which is so easy to do, with the slip of a finger or a lapse in concentration), you get incomplete or inaccurate address information.
The consequences of this range from delays and customer frustration to costly redelivery fees, all of which could be easily avoided.
A real-time type-ahead address capture solution allows retailers to collect accurate customer addresses in online forms and checkouts. Not only is it the quickest and easiest way to capture address data, it’s also the friendliest solution for mobile commerce.
3. Streamline the whole experience
Speed and convenience are key driving factors when buying online, particularly when using mobile devices, so take out all the friction, the repetition and the delay.
You could do this by implementing a geolocation tool at the customer address entry stage. Using single-tap technology, geolocation allows shoppers to click a button and their current location is found, eliminating the need to enter an address.
The study found that geolocation reduces friction, which means happier customers, higher conversion rates and improved data quality.
4. Change it up (if you need to)
There is always room for improvement on e-commerce sites, not least because the tech is improving all the time.
42% of purchases on mobile phones are abandoned, 38% on laptops and 36% on tablets.
The study says: “If every retailer were to convert these percentages into exact figures, it would send shockwaves through the industry. Making the necessary changes to ensure every transaction is a smooth experience can go a long way.”
5. Follow the heat
Heatmaps are a wonderful tool to better understand where your customers are clicking and how they move through your site. This can help identify blockers and areas that attract no interest, so you can make informed decisions about design changes and optimisation.
One challenge facing e-commerce companies is finding customers across the web and at the right time. Advertising soon leads to brand fatigue, ROI might go down and new ways may need to be explored. According to Forbes magazine, influencer engagement, AR, and (by extension) selling merch in-game. We have covered AR extensively already, so let’s explore the other two.
Whether brands work with micro influencers at much more affordable rates or the most popular influencers for a steep price, there is no doubt that influencer marketing works simply because influencers are …influential.
Fashion e-commerce giant ASOS.com has a huge influencer marketing strategy. Instead of using sponsored posts, it created sponsored accounts for individual influencers. They called them ‘ASOS insiders’ and their accounts featured ASOS clothing outfits with links to prompt followers to “buy the look”. Which they did. In fact in 2020, as the pandemic kept us all inside and retail took a huge hit, ASOS flourished.
ASOS leveraged existing influencers’ engaged audiences, which is hard to establish as a brand. The influencers effectively built a natural, organic audience based around the brand, which gave ASOS a wider reach and more long-term engagement, without spending on big advertising campaigns. Genius.
Similarly, Australian beauty brand Sand & Sky catapulted to success by dominating with influencer marketing.
Dear Charlie, which was responsible for its marketing strategy, says it delivers on average more than $100k in monthly earned media value and >1,000% ROI, managing large-scale global marketing budgets.
It says: “We achieved this working alongside the in-house team by developing their influencer marketing and existing global influencer relationships.”
Selling merch in-game
Video games are a perfect breeding ground to offer items within the experience of a game.
For example, online retail giant Shopify boasts the API Unity SDK, which is a service that offers games or apps the ability to offer physical products in their virtual world.
Users can shop at in-game gift shops, receive products as a reward for their in-game play, or even allow players to create unique items in-game that they can own physically.
The Metaverse and growing access to Virtual Reality tools will only accelerate this. In December, a fan shelled out as much as $450,000 to be Snoop Dogg’s virtual neighbour in the digital world of “Snoopverse.” In the same month, Adidas sold more than $22 million in nonfungible tokens (NFTs) within the afternoon they launched.
There are more technologies that can support a new era of e-commerce. In April, breakout fintech business Evvio announced the launch of Fluid Commerce, which describes itself as an e-commerce growth agency. It is essentially an e-commerce transaction platform that eliminates the need for credit cards, bank accounts, and third-party processors.
The patented technology works within and across e-commerce networks, including the metaverse, digital games ecosystems, the sharing economy, and super apps.
It also allows for the use of any digital currency, including fiat, tokens, rewards, and crypto. In addition, the technology includes patented verified metered services to prevent fraud and avoid disputes.
Techwire Asia says other emerging technologies that will change the face of e-commerce include: the ever-increasing computing power of the cloud; and the ongoing development of social commerce and blockchain, which will enable even greater visualisation and personalization.
While human nature and the pleasure of browsing might be unchanging, in technology, nothing ever stays the same. If your business is based on e-commerce, this is great news: the future is full of exciting opportunities.