Trends shaping the future of online shopping (PT3 – Social and content commerce plus the retailtainment revolution)

Future Gazing Series

Trends shaping the future of online shopping - Part 3: Social and content commerce plus the retailtainment revolution

In this final instalment of our look at the trends shaping the future of online shopping, we are turning our attention to the ways in which social, entertainment and content creation are merging with E-commerce to create exciting product discovery and shoppertainment experiences.

Modern consumers have less time for hunting through rows of products or deciphering traditional advertising. Brands that can deliver on Today’s consumer expectations of being simultaneously engaged and inspired are seeing the greatest returns. Generating exclusive and entertaining online moments that cannot be found anywhere else creates a strong emotional response within us and can ultimately deepen the relationship between a consumer and a brand. The ongoing shift in how we are consuming media and spending time online is combining with newer methods of online transactions such as social buy buttons, mobile payments and P2P transfers to create shopping experiences that can quickly lead users through stages like shared product exploration and influencer endorsements into a purchase phase without them ever having to leave their preferred social platform.

Image Copyright © NTWRK

This mashup of entertainment, social influence and product curation has been gaining momentum for some time and innovative platforms like NTWRK try to blend entertainment and commerce, by giving their audience unprecedented access to exclusive products and content from major sports stars, musicians, actors, influencers and designers. The format they use centres around weekly episodic product drops that you can only watch live on your mobile phone. It creates a finite live purchase window of 15–20 minutes, after that, it’s gone forever. This drives a kind of hyper-urgency around selected products and immediately bakes in exclusivity. Brands are seeing this type of platform as an opportunity to leverage collaborations with personalities to create exclusive capsule collections and unique product drops, using the skills of their partner media companies to package and tell the stories of those collaborations. This combination of storytelling and purchasing ability together in a live-streaming video environment is a very powerful mix.

Image Copyright © NTWRK

UK high street brand Superdrug has also been forward thinking in their approach to digital engagement and used aspects of Retailtainment to create more memorable purchasing experiences through their Superdrug TV. They have been quick to recognise that by providing their customers with an entertaining and informative online show they can increase the time on site and the average transaction size, strengthen customer loyalty and retention in the long term and make the company more viable and relevant to consumers who are looking for ways to spend their time online. There is no doubt that the approach of Superdrug takes considerable courage, time and budget but it really enables the brand to use their expertise, highlight key products and position themselves as an authority in the healthcare and beauty sectors.

Image Copyright © Superdrug

These socially infused commerce trends beginning to shape the way western retailers engage shoppers online can have their roots traced back to breakthroughs made in China many years ago.

In 2020 social commerce made up over 11.6 per cent of total retail e-commerce sales in China, which equated to an astronomical 242 billion dollars in sales revenue. But this was no overnight success, finding ways to unlock potential revenue streams for retailers on social media has been at the forefront of major changes to social platforms in China for over a decade now. Micro-store concepts started popping up on the most popular social apps in around 2010 and since then has become expected by users. The likes of WeChat now incorporate entire shopping eco-systems with integrated lightweight sub-apps that brands such as Sephora, Nike, Gucci and Armani often use to gain speed to market and sell to huge audiences. As well as the speed and ease to market presented by the social integrations it is also important to note that as the cost of acquiring new customers online continues to rise social commerce is seen by brands as a more cost-effective way to reach new customers.

Another very popular tactic of the social media power players in China is the use of Live Commerce and AMA (Ask Me Anything) experiences. Through a live chat with popular hosts, founders or influencers, shoppers can hear the story of how products were designed and created or dig deeper on product suitability by asking probing questions about the product and watching live demonstrations. Live shopping streams may be a relatively new approach for eCommerce, but this iteration is just a continuation of something that started way back in the late 70s and early 80s with the big American shopping channels. Channels like QVC specialised in selling home goods, fashion, and beauty and continue to enjoy a lot of success in certain shopping communities.

Copyright © QVC

In 2021 it now appears every major social platform is moving towards a model focused on social connections and commerce, with Tik Tok most recently revealing its plans to take steps towards directly connecting creators with more monetization opportunities. Similarly, Pinterest has really been working hard to innovate in this area over recent years and has been successfully experimenting with new ways to create buying opportunities straight from the platform. They claim that a massive 83% of Pinterest users have purchased a product based on something they saw from a brand on the platform. Learn more about how Pinterest approaches social selling and check out their intriguing roll-out of in-built AR capabilities – buying eyeshadow will never be the same again!

There is no doubt that there is huge potential in the areas of retailtainment, live Commerce and social commerce, and on the fringes of this new trends like shopping with friends and virtual shopping mates are also beginning to peak brands interest. In a world still mainly operating under some sort of lockdown, these fully digitised shopping experiences seem to most closely resemble in-person shopping and the added extras like celebrity endorsements or social validation only further strengthen the possibilities.

Our view at Clarity is that this approach to online shopping is one that is only going to strengthen in the years to come, so watch this (online retail) space!

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