Translating content into commerce
How to ease attrition and boost sales through experience-driven ecommerce
Most of us know from our own shopping experiences that the traditional linear sales process has been changed forever. Today, purchasing journeys move fluently across multiple channels, from online to offline and back again.
Our Future Shopper survey results show that consumers are gravitating towards a shopping experience that includes a multitude of touchpoints, each playing a crucial role in the decision-making and purchasing journey. They will be inspired on Instagram, click through to the online shop, check in-stock inventory in a nearby shop in real-time, visit the shop to try the product and, finally, order it to be delivered to their home in 24 hours. While they may find inspiration on one channel, they’ll typically search on another, and then purchase elsewhere.
The question for direct-to-consumer (D2C) websites, which get plenty of traffic but ultimately lose out on actual sales to other channels, is how to make customers ‘stick’ once they visit. The answer lies in giving consumers a reason to stay, something they would miss out on if they went elsewhere: an experience.
What does that actually mean?
To put it simply, for many, buying online is no longer just about finding a product, paying for it, and waiting for it to arrive. Today, many consumers want to enjoy the experience of shopping online as much as they do spending a day at the shops. They want the time that they spend online to be rewarding and entertaining.
Granted, a significant number of customers are completely price-driven and will always gravitate to the channel that offers the product at the lowest price. So, the experience play is aimed at those consumers who are less price sensitive. There are plentiful examples of this in action in the offline world – take Mercedes, for example, which charges a premium for customers to collect their vehicle from the factory, with VIP service and a tour thrown in. People who go for this option quite literally buy into the experience.
Experience-driven ecommerce means replicating this kind of mindset online. It’s a world where online shoppers not only seek out experiences but use them to make decisions. So, ensuring that each experience is beneficial and right for each customer (i.e. personalised) is the key – and vital to managing attrition.
What can brands do to make the experience worthwhile?
1. Cater for different shopper profiles
Many brands are caught between offering a one-size-fits-all experience or endless personalisation. The first is unimaginative and the second is often impossible to achieve.
Somewhere in between is where most brands should aim – creating specific experiences which online consumers can tailor for themselves based on what it is they are shopping for, and how they want to shop for it.
2. Ensure that you have complete agility and flexibility across the journey
One of the areas that brands often struggle with is ‘trading’ their site. This is where marketing and commerce meet, both organisationally and technically, with the interplay of content management systems and ecommerce. Attrition cannot be addressed with great content alone, nor just through well thought-out journeys or by trying to rely on the right ecommerce buying experience. Instead, all of these elements need to work together.
Organisations need to have the flexibility and agility to blend the experience across the usual ‘marketing’ part of the site with ecommerce – enabling them to manipulate and optimise the experience equally in both. Making editorial content accessible in the traditional purchase flow or creating ‘quick buy’ options in the ‘learn and shop’ flow are just two examples of how to do this. The key to this agility is the ability to optimise through constant tracking of the lead metrics on the site. Looking at where journeys get abandoned, and having the capabilities to test, learn and optimise at any point, will help to identify where attrition is occurring, so it can easily be addressed.
3. Dilute the impact of price
This means offering consumers value that they cannot get from the savings that they might make from the price.
Any online shopper can find the best price by searching across channels. And it is absolutely normal for a buyer to heavily research a product on one site (usually the one with the best content and ‘discovery’ experience) only to make the purchase where the best price can be found. Stopping them from doing this is the trick that direct-to-consumer brands must master. It’s to the chagrin of many brands today that while 34% of online consumers said they used branded sites for product inspiration last year, that figure has now dropped to 18%. Our Future Shopper 2020 study also confirmed that Amazon is the main beneficiary.
We have discussed how exclusivity in products and content gives customers a reason to visit D2C sites beyond simple product search, and hopefully make a purchase. But what approaches have the biggest direct impact on negating the obvious attractions of lower prices? Loyalty programmes are one very promising area. In fact, our Ready or Not? research into digital commerce leaders in the UK and US, showed loyalty programmes were the number one area where brands felt they could compete with the likes of Amazon. Nike is a standout example, offering a wealth of attractive training and lifestyle rewards with membership, including the Nike App, Nike Run & Training Clubs, as well as early access to new products and other exclusives.
Another approach is for a brand to demonstrate its purpose and what it stands for. While the drive for the cheapest price can attract certain customers, we increasingly see consumers seeking information about the ethics and sustainability of companies and products. For Generation Z (6-16 year olds), 66% want to buy products from companies that are trying to do good in the world. The figure for active consumers (16+) is also high, with 71% of online shoppers saying they wish retailers and brands offered better environmental practices such as less packaging. More than half (55%) said that they considered a company’s ethics and morals when making purchasing decisions.
Unilever anticipated this trend a decade ago, launching its Sustainable Living brands plan in 2010. And, notably, the 26 associated brands (including Dove, Lipton and Hellman’s) have grown 46% faster than the rest of its business. Clearly, Unilever is delivering on its sustainability promises and having a positive impact with consumers at the same time.
Experience as a core proposition
The key point is that some consumers will overlook cheaper options elsewhere for the right kind of exclusivity, for example, if they feel like they are a valued member of a club or community, or if their purchase aligns with their values. To avoid being dragged into discounting battles that brands are usually doomed to lose, it is therefore important to make the experience a core part of the proposition, so price isn’t the only factor customers weigh up when it comes to buying direct from you.
Making every experience shoppable is the new retail holy grail. Brands and retailers need to deliver richer narratives that seamlessly weave content with commerce functionality throughout the user journey. Today’s leading ecommerce technology solutions allow businesses to do this too. If you’re able to join up and mine the shopper data across your organisation, and have the people, processes and tech in place to make it happen, you’re in a strong position to deliver experience-inspired retail fit for today’s shoppers.
09 September 2020
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