Far too often CEO’s, CMO’s, eComm Managers, Sales Directors and the like get caught up in the idea that eCommerce is all about transactions and conversion rates. Yes, transactions matter and yes, conversion is key, but what these eCommerce aligned professionals seem to be missing is the fact that an eCommerce experience is a brand experience and it needs to be treated as such.
When it comes to eCommerce, the purchase process is pretty much the same from site to site. A consumer views a bunch of products, finds one that fits their needs, adds it to their cart, and proceeds to checkout. This process is boring, shallow, and expected. Yet, the common mentality appears to be “Amazon does it,” so many brands play follow the leader and align their eCommerce platform with what they consider to be best practice.
What these brands are failing to realize is that Amazon is a mass-merchant retailer solely focused on getting various products, from various brands, into the consumers hands as fast as possible. However, brands must remember that the expectations of the consumer when shopping on Amazon’s platform are very different than the expectations of a proprietary retail brand. While transactions matter, they are only a piece of the big picture regarding the brand/consumer relationship.
It’s a well known fact that today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to, they want to be connected with. Much like the expectations of a brick-and-mortar experience—the consumer wants personalization, context, relatability, and they want to be engaged emotionally. To do this, brands must focus on transforming the mundane and uninspiring “transactional” model of eCommerce, into a compelling consumer experience that builds loyalty and speaks to their unique ambitions, desires, and needs.
So how can brands build loyalty and move from a transactional mindset to an experiential one?
Establish Positioning & Facilitate Discovery
Every consumer touchpoint provides brands with a unique opportunity to communicate who they are, what they do, and what they stand for. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to digital. Just because your platform sells product online… doesn’t mean the visitors are there to buy online.
In a digital world that lacks differentiation when it comes to eCommerce, brands must find unique ways to position themselves. They must facilitate the discovery of their values, offerings and culture as well as enable consumers to find and purchase products on their terms through a delightful and unique branded experience.
This discovery I’m speaking of is crucial, because a major shift is taking place regarding how consumers shop online. With the rise of mobile and tablet shopping and the creation of crowd-sourced discovery sites like Pinterest, consumers now “browse” for products that may be of interest to them and look to explore deep into the brand to see if it’s something they really desire. This has resulted in a new customer journey when it comes to online transactions, where the path to purchase can happen all at once or over time, as the consumer immerses themselves in the brand and the overall experience they can provide.
Tell Stories & Provide Context
“Storytelling” has become an overused marketing term these days but the truth is that it’s the most effective way to build empathy with a consumer. According to Uri Hassan, a Professor at the University of Princeton, when someone is engaged in a story, they can turn the ideas and the experiences they’re encountering into thoughts of their own. This is why storytelling is an effective tool for brands—it has the power to change purchasing behavior because it drives consideration, anticipation, and desire.
Stories motivate consumers and when stories are aligned with products, it helps them envision how the product will impact their reality. Emotion trumps facts and figures which is why people buy from brands they like. Immersive content that articulates the brand as well as provides context to the product can transform something typical into an engaging experience. The more engaging a brand can be, the better chance it stands to convert a browser into a buyer.
The internet is a place where stories flourish and can be found everywhere. For some reason however, this method of marketing is missing from many online eCommerce platforms. If you think about the OmniChannel experience (another new marketing trend), consumers are used to encountering storytelling within brick-and-mortar retail stores where brands try to appeal to the consumers emotions. For brands to succeed online, they must look to improve the consumer experience by engaging people emotionally through contextually relevant product storytelling. By providing delight, they can transition from being transactionally focused to experientially focused which will build loyalty and influence future purchasing decisions
Present Product in an Engaging Manner
Brands must think about how their consumer wants to engage with their product and what those expectations are when doing so. Product presentation is extremely important and when it comes to the web, there are many ways to present product including but not limited to the typical catalog view, lookbook, interactive video and dedicated microsites that are able to tell a brand and product story through context.
Brands should leverage these means of presentation in a manner that expresses their brand and gives a more substantial reason for a consumer to consider engaging with them. For years, traditional brick-and-mortar retail experiences have used creative merchandising and “showrooming” to provide consumers with inspiration, suggestions, and guidance. But for some reason, this tactic of “connecting with consumers emotionally” is rarely found online.
While shopping online, consumers often don’t know why they prefer one product over another which causes them to make instant decisions with their sub-conscious. This is why brands should use visuals, messaging, and interactions to delight, inspire and engage the consumer to influence their purchasing decisions in and experiential manner.
When it comes to branding, it is common knowledge that consumers control the perception of a brand and they determine the value of their products, services, or offerings. In a brand saturated world where differentiation and positioning matter most, few brands are using eCommerce as an opportunity to deliver an experience that exceeds consumer expectations and drives desire by connecting with them emotionally.
Here at BASIC, our agency is pushing our clients to think experientially instead of transactionally because we believe that if we can help them transform the consumer experience… we can help them improve their transactions as well.