In the past two years, the commerce landscapes have changed far beyond belief and with good reason. The Covid-19 pandemic has made consumers across the globe see how they purchase goods in a new light. Gone are the days of browsing the aisles for hours and in have come social touchpoints, the need for speed and conscious shopping. As we step into 2022, those trends are the forefront of brand and marketer plans as they look to find ways to entice consumers and ensure brand loyalty.
Livestreaming is by no means a new concept. One only has to look to the film Joy to find Jennifer Lawrence playing an ambitious Joy Mangano who uses QVC to sell her mops. This film was set in 1990 and since then much has evolved in the ways of using live events to drive sales, but one thing hasn’t: it works.
Towards the end of last year, I spoke to experts in China about what the country’s Single’s Day
would hold and one thing that stood out was that livestreaming would be ‘a thing’. It seems that this year it’ll be even bigger. Media.Monks EMEA’s vice president of solutions Adrian Whitehouse says that brands who do not have commerce options or whose offerings are poor will ‘not compete’ and adds that, while livestreaming is a good option for certain brands, it requires the right influencer and right channels to achieve results.
He explains: “Having a clear strategy and idea is critical, as there is now so much media being created that sometimes it feels like there are more people creating content than there are people consuming it. Being clear on the right channels to reach your target audiences and what kinds of content will pull them towards your brand will help to make efforts effective.”
VMLY&R COMMCERCE’s EVP Jacquelyn Baker notes that today’s consumers have high expectations and don’t just want to shop - they want a whole experience and want to be entertained as they do so. “Livestreaming has proven a lucrative endeavour for entertaining and enticing purchase for consumers in the east. While still nascent in the west, we will see this capability rapidly expand as platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, and TikTok as well as retailers like Amazon and Walmart heavily invest in this medium.”
It’s safe to say social media and commerce go hand-in-hand more than ever. It’s common practice to scroll through Instagram or Facebook and be inundated with ads for brands or to watch clips on TikTok that provide clickable links to the products involved. As Jacquelyn says: “There’s a reason ‘TikTok made me buy it’ is common vernacular now.” She adds that this new blend of scrolling and shopping is igniting a new type of creativity that encourages purchases in the moment.
Wunderman Thompson Australia’s chief commerce officer Geoff Smeaton explains that while social has been a big part of our lives for over a decade, it’s recently becoming a big part of shopping life too. “Whether simply taking inspiration from Instagram, recommendations from friends or transacting, social plays an essential part in all stages of the customer journey; attracting, engaging, converting and retaining. With 44% of shoppers globally having already purchased through a social platform, brands need to ensure they are optimizing their social presence, content and engagement across each stage of the customer journey if they are to draw benefit from social channels.”
According to Mohammed Sirajuddeen, growth and digital commerce lead, growth markets at Accenture Interactive, every point is a ‘potential transaction’ now, so it’s only wise that brands utilise this to the best of their abilities. “We’re now entering a new era where the emerging strategies around brand interactions on social can become even more effective through the use of interactive content, videos, images, and augmented reality. As we see intriguing strategies converging the worlds of social media, ecommerce and advertising, we expect visual commerce and shoppable content – such as an image with a buyable item – to be one of the key focuses for brands looking to bring more products home for consumers.”
Wunderman Thompson Commerce Future Shopper Report, 2021 looked at social shopping trends and found that 44% of consumers have already purchased via a social media platform and 56% intend to spend more via social in the future, which means that increasingly this will be a vital challenge for sales. The agency’s global marketing director and thought leadership lead Hugh Fletcher says that this ‘places the platforms in a very strong position, alongside the influencers whose role is becoming increasingly important’.
Metaverse and Digital Worlds
Much has been mentioned about the metaverse and its ability to keep consumers connected digitally when physical interactions aren’t possible. According to Media.Monks’ Adrian Whitehouse, the platform offers ‘first mover advantage for brands able to get creative’ while creating new revenue streams via ‘virtualised brand experiences’.
While Digitas’ Christa Klausner, SVP of media commerce lead, and Danisha Lomax, SVP of national paid social lead believe that retailers that improve their omnichannel experiences to reduce payment and fulfilment friction and offer unique interactive experiences will be the most successful in driving consumers into physical retail. They add: “Technology, specifically more metaverse opportunities, will drive those experiences.”
Although, Accenture Interactive’s Sirajuddeen believes that, by blending physical and digital worlds, there will be as many marketing challenges as opportunities in 2022. He explains how this will affect virtual worlds: “Brands will look to improve their competitiveness with new immersive and virtual reality technologies, data, and artificial intelligence to build a metaverse-ready organisation.
“The ongoing buzz around the metaverse also shows promise for brands looking to explore a blend of physical and digital experiences to connect with what their consumers are doing and what they value.”
From a tact of engaging new consumers, MRM’s EVP and head of total commerce experiences, Ed Kim, believes that metaverses ‘will be used to engage the younger cohorts, those that figure it out will unlock new revenue streams’.
During Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s research, they found that being environmentally conscious was a challenge for brands to overcome so Hugh explains that the metaverse could be one solution to these challenges. He explains: “With 4% of consumers expecting the products that they ordered online to arrive within two hours – digital products may be the only answer to achieving this timescale. the lines between physical consumers and their avatars are blurring with 41% considering their avatar to be part of their identity. This is a really good opportunity for brands and retailers to sell to consumers, and a real opportunity to launch products and brands via a new channel – after all, 33% of gamers claim to have discovered new brands while gaming.”
It seems that sustainability and being environmentally conscious have been pushed to the forefront of consumer mindsets over the past two years. And while Hugh mentioned above how the metaverse is one way to tackle this, the research done by the Wunderman Thompson Commerce Future Shopper Report found that ‘67% of consumers believe that a company’s ethics and morals play an important role in their decision making, while 60% said that they actively choose brands and retailers that are environmentally responsible’. It doesn’t end there, because the findings also reveal that more consumers are demanding faster delivery but also want to consider the environment more.
At Accenture Interactive, Sirajuddeen touches upon ‘conscious consumption’. He believes this is a smart way for brands to drive change: “The key is to leverage the smart use of data, creativity and technology to create better experiences and products. Better for the planet and consumers. We see brands this year understanding this importance and offering better support for consumers, for example through green shopping vouchers to incentivise the purchase of green products and package recycling options, in their pursuit of purpose.”
VMLY&R COMMERCE’s Jacquelyn believes that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and in particular she touches upon how today’s consumers feel a sense of ownership over the negative and unintended consequences of a mobile economy. “When anything can be bought and shipped anywhere, anytime, there is danger in that. Brands and retailers alike will continue to harness that sense of responsibility and make investments and strides to do their part in ensuring the shopping habits forming today do not cause undue harm tomorrow.”
MRM’s Ed Kim touches upon convenience being a priority followed by shopping at one’s own pace, easy price comparison and bargain hunting, and safe shopping. He says: “The new trend we will see is consumers placing more of their dollars on businesses that provide amazing experiences – more digitally and but also physically – that aren’t simply an experience digitally transformed.”
Post-Pandemic Future and Beyond
Covid has of course changed the way consumers think about and purchase goods. It has also brought about a higher demand for shorter time frames and better experiences. But, what do the experts think this means for the future of commerce?
Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Hugh Fletcher looks at how consumers will shop post-Covid: “Consumers told us that irrespective of the eventual outcome of the pandemic, more of their shopping will remain online, in fact, 80% of shoppers globally said their shopping behaviours had changed for good, with just 8% saying they intended to revert back to their old ways. This should see online spending over the 50% mark in 2022.”
Ed explores what he thinks 2022 will look like and why erratic shopping could hinder brands: “Digital commerce giants will rule the logistics experience. One day delivery will be more common with Amazon and Walmart. Great dividends for these marketplaces, but massive pressures on all other commerce channels to overcome that sticky convenience.
“Investments will drastically accelerate as brands compete to create amazing experiences to attract and keep customers. Like the Great Resignation, the consumer cost of switching between brands is rapidly approaching zero. If they can’t get what they want from one brand, even after years of loyalty, they can easily jump to another.”
This is something Adrian from Media.Monks agrees with when he compares ecommerce to ‘the air we breathe’. “We only notice it when it’s suddenly absent, or if it stinks. Consumers want value, not volume, of interactions with a brand and, after almost two years of mostly digital interaction and starved of physical experiences, consumers expect to be able to buy online and expect a high quality/high value experience.”
Geoff from Wunderman Thompson Australia explains that as normality ensues, brands shouldn’t view in-store as an alternative to online, but as channels that can support each other. “Brands need to find ways to enhance and augment the physical touch points the consumers have with their brand, offering digital experiences, information or content, whether that is in-store, delivery or event based.”
In the APAC region, close to 60% of consumers who have evaluated their personal purpose after the pandemic said they would switch retailers if they did not offer new fast and flexible delivery options of goods such as click-and-collect and curbside pickup, says Accenture Interactive’s Sirajuddeen. He explains that this is driving the need to create seamless customer experiences going forward: “Consumers will expect brands to meet them regardless of where they are – digital world, physical world or a blend of the two – and deliver products across channels and whenever they require. For brands, this means an urgent need to focus on creating a truly seamless customer experience enabled by technology and data.”
This is something Jacquelyn agrees with when she states that ‘going shopping is a thing of the past’, whilst ‘always shopping is an element of the now and will persist into the future.’ This has altered the way brands should look at building relationships with consumers: “Commerce is ubiquitous across channels and devices and the ever-present availability has irrevocably disrupted consumer expectations. The days of brands building equity, consumers buying into the brand promise, and then the product itself as the nature of their transactional relationship are gone.”