Jenny Mak is a group creative director who’s passionate about creating work that solves big business problems with creativity. She loves making work that changes behaviour, affects culture and transforms the fortunes of businesses. Here, she discusses a seismic shift in consumer behaviours due to the rise of eCommerce platforms.
What a difference a year makes. A year ago our lives looked very different to how they do now, including the way we shop. As Covid-19 locked us down and out of the traditional shopping experience we naturally migrated online, and in record numbers. The NAB Online Retail Sales Index reveals Australian’s online spending has seen an increase of 28.6% year on year. It also estimates that in the 12 months to July, Australians spent $37.4 billion on online retail, a level that is around 11.1% of the total retail trade estimate.
eCommerce is booming and it is big business. Due to ease, ability to compare prices and limited touch, six in ten consumers intend to continue buying as much, if not more online in the future (Kantar, 2020).
So what does this mean for brands?
With the growth of eCommerce, brands need to invest in the online experience to help make it more immersive and convenient for customers. The way we work and interact with the world changed overnight, forcing us to embrace technology like never before. In doing so, our expectations of the online experience have risen, and brands need to keep pace or get left behind.
In a year that’s seen many bricks and mortar stores forced to close courtesy of the pandemic, technology has provided brands with a lifeline. From the beauty and fashion categories to the automotive category, brands of all shapes and sizes have been turning to technology to keep up with rapidly changing consumer behaviour. Want to try on the latest sneakers without stepping out? Gucci added an augmented reality feature to its iOS app that lets shoppers virtually try on the brand's line of Ace sneakers. Because the app tracks foot movements, shoppers can look at the virtual shoes in real time and from different angles. They can also take a snapshot of the virtual shoes to share on social media or make a direct purchase from Gucci's eCommerce site.
Gucci is not the first brand to implement AR technology to demonstrate products or engage mobile customers with high-tech, immersive brand experiences. This year, Volkswagen launched an augmented reality tool that lets customers view and customise cars through their devices. Helping customers see how a new car looks in their driveway without ever turning the key seems to be working. Since its launch in April, Volkswagen has sold $36 million worth of cars online.
IKEA has also taken the buyer’s journey into a virtual platform by creating an augmented-reality app where customers can view products like a couch or a bed and see how they would look in their homes without ever setting foot in an IKEA store. With a few clicks from their mobile phone and a swipe here and there on the IKEA Place app, customers get instant feedback on their potential purchase. This makes the purchase decision easier, all because of a simple process enabled by technology.
By letting shoppers see 3D visualisations of products, brands can better manage consumer expectations and boost customer-satisfaction rates. Making customers happy the first time around helps to eliminate the costs of handling product returns from disappointed shoppers while potentially driving brand loyalty and future sales.
It’s clear that the ‘new normal’ for businesses is defined in part by a shift in consumer preference for eCommerce and contactless payments, which can help limit consumer exposure and promote social distancing during the pandemic. Of course technology doesn’t replace the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ experience, but in a year that’s seen people migrate from offline to online shopping like never before, it’s become an essential part of the customer journey.
My advice to any business in 2021 is to be agile. We’ve all witnessed first-hand how quickly the landscape can change. It will be those brands that embrace the online experience that not only survive but thrive as more and more consumers trade the traditional shopping experience for convenience. As Winston Churchill once said, you should never let a crisis go to waste, and now’s the best time to take stock and realign your business, especially for any brand which hasn’t yet capitalised on the growth of eCommerce.
- Jenny Mak, Ogilvy Sydney group creative director