The dramatic increases in eCommerce in 2020 were cause for both excitement and trepidation for brands competing in a noisy and complicated market. For digitally native brands, the shift in focus from physical to digital retail was often smooth, while other brands took some time to adjust to the market conditions.
Now approaching a year since the world was turned upside down, brands have established their digital bases, but what should they expect to address in 2021 to remain top of mind and choice for consumers whose demands and expectations have evolved? Three key areas stand out.
The shift to eComm has been well documented, but direct website traffic was not the only winner in the shuffle. Social commerce, or buying products through social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, drove $22 billion dollars in US sales in 2019, growing to $29.3 billion in 2020, and expected to reach $84.2 billion and over 7% of US retail ecommerce by 2024.
Why are these numbers so high? Well in addition to the increased amount of time that users were spending on social during quarantine (the average user spent nearly 2.5 hours per day across networks), social growth thrives on streamlining the shopping experience and highly engaging imagery and story telling capabilities. Pinterest and Instagram are especially well positioned to leverage visuals to capture attention and consumer desires. Products featured amidst content that users are engaged with and often promoted by accounts they already follow capitalize on the community built on these platforms and the ability to showcase benefits and use cases.
The incredible amount of data available on these platforms also allows brands using social commerce to reach highly targeted audiences, increasing the likelihood of conversion after exposure. According to two studies from Facebook IQ,54% of respondents made a purchase in the moment or after exposure to a brand on Instagram. The studies also found that 81% of shoppers use Instagram or Facebook to research products, and that 87% took some form of action with a brand, such as following, finding more information, or making a purchase, after seeing a brand on the platforms.
In particular, Millennial and Gen Z shoppers, who’s purchasing power totals xx in 2021, are opting to shop through social. 48% of US internet users age 18-34 made a purchase through a social platform in 2019. An additional 27% indicated that they were interested in doing so in the future.
Possibly the most important feature of social commerce is the removal of friction between product discovery and purchase. Social commerce allows a consumers to discover, explore, and purchase products within a single app, sometimes in a matter of minutes. For products with low entry thresholds, this is incredibly valuable in driving impulse purchases. Research from Invesp showed that almost 40% of all eCommerce dollars were spent on impulse purchases.
Shifting Consumer Habits
The growth in social commerce demonstrates another key trend that brands should be prepared for; a heavy shift in overall consumer shopping habits. McKinsey found a 40% net increase in intent to shop online even after COVID-19 is contained.
These shifts are not limited to the younger generations either; shoppers who once relied almost solely on physical retail have largely adopted online shopping as a safe and convenient way to purchase products. According to research from the National Retail Federation in June 2020, 45% of baby boomers are shopping online more due to the pandemic, and experts expect these behavior to continue.
In addition to the overall growth of eCommerce, the expectations of consumers for the types and level of service provided by brands are evolving. Delivery and curbside service are no longer added conveniences, they are necessities for brands looking to compete. As described by the NRF, “contactless” and “frictionless’ are terms that are now daily demands on sellers when developing a customer experience.
Shoppers have become accustomed to the ease and convenience of delivery and curbside. Even as retailers are able to welcome shoppers back in the more traditional sense, these convinces and benefits of saved time are likely to be valued by buyers, especially as they return to busier lives. Buyers have also become more comfortable purchasing a larger variety of products online, even larger products such as furniture and recreational equipment. The key to success here is a brand’s ability to accurately represent and convey a products appearance and features in a digital ecosystem. Many brands have adopted product visualization software to allow shoppers to explore and engage with products in an immersive way online, increasing customer satisfaction in the buying experience as well as confidence in the products they are purchasing.
The shift to eCommerce is not without its risks; in particular the risks associated with logistics and shipping which have plagued businesses and consumers alike for the better part of a year. While brands have little control over orders once they are sent to a shipper, they must design their overall customer experience and responses to the issues that can and will arise so that the buyer feels confident in doing business with them again.
A preference for shopping online doesn’t mean the customers are willing to trade convenience for experience; brands still must deliver on crafting an engaging experience that build a connection between buyer and product. One of the most impactful ways to accomplish this is with augmented reality. AR provides the buyer with not only a 3D view of the products, but the opportunity to discover how the product will look in their home, their garage, or even on their face. Sunglasses brand goodr, which recently launched their virtual try on experience, saw that shoppers who used the virtual try on were 41% more likely to convert.
For apparel and fashion brands especially, getting a consumer to imagine themselves wearing an
item is key to the sale. However, the idea of trying on items in store during a pandemic can be scary for a large majority of buyers. AR brings the fitting room experience to their own home, and while it is not a perfect swap for a physical try on, it helps to bridge the gap of how an item looks when photographed online versus what it looks like on the consumer.
For products such as home goods and furniture, product visualization AR relieves much of the stress of deterring whether that “perfect” couch will actually fit in a consumers home, or if that lamp is the right shade of blue.; but these benefits also extend beyond remote and online shopping.
Large scale items require a larger amount of space, which means that retailers generally do not carry all options for a given product, and even if they do, they are not stored on the sales floor. Using an AR experience allows buyers to view and engage with all product options and configurations to determine which is best for them before purchasing. This builds a consumer’s confidence, which empowers them to either shop online or order their exact model while standing in store to then be delivered to their home.
2021 is sure to be another wild ride as brands and consumers alike navigate the current environment. However, with a little ingenuity and a lot of attention to detail, brands can create experiences that keep their customers happy, healthy, and safe while enjoying their products.
Ready to take on 2021 with a better online experience? Let’s talk.