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Brands Must Bridge the Serendipity Gap



Essentially, the efficiency of online purchasing is here - but the magic of shopping is not, writes Jamie Peate, global head of retail strategy at McCann Worldgroup

Brands Must Bridge the Serendipity Gap

As we know Lockdown has driven us to shopping online like never before. According to the Zero Touch Society report by Lab 13by MRM/McCann, 50% of shoppers said they were going into shops less and are trying to minimise touching surfaces before the latest lockdown.

The problem is that as convenient as online purchasing is, it’s a rather clinical affair. It lacks an awful lot of the emotional reward and delight we get from physical shopping and cannot deliver on the inspiration and discovery provided by the in-store experience. If you know what you want in advance, then online is economical in time and cost. But a Google Search and an Amazon click can’t deliver when you don’t know what you want nor on the joy of discovering something for yourself and/or for friends and family. Behold ‘The Serendipity Gap’ which is a crucial challenge for modern retail.

According to McCann Worldgroup Truth Central’s ‘Truth about Commerce’ report, modern retail has two distinct and important modes – shopping and buying.

The buying part is all about utility – removing friction and making the entire purchasing process (ordering, paying, receiving, returning and refunding, if necessary) as easy, intuitive and frictionless as possible.

The shopping part is all about discovery, delight and inspiration – and it is here that The Serendipity Gap really bites once the shopper moves to and relies more on e-commerce.

So much of e-commerce thinking and development has been driven by the desire for efficiency at every stage, be that in user experience design or in the logistics chain. But very little thinking or development has been given to inspiration, surprise or delight in the shopping part, and this represents a huge area of potential for brands that can find creative ways to address this and fill the void. In fact, some already are.

One way is via social channels/commerce…increasingly natural places for browsing, discovery and inspiration. Already Facebook and Instagram feed content directly to e-commerce sites. Facebook Live is attracting brands like Aldi UK, which ran Facebook Christmas Lives – live stream events featuring tips and suggestions from an expert, such as Christmas ideas for dog owners.

Other retailers like Liberty and Selfridges are creating shopping events where content and even tech experiences are used as a way to both attract and inspire shoppers to buy.

This is only the start. Live digital events are becoming shoppable, with Amazon Live and Google ShopLoop both offering ways for brands to work with influencers and sell, all in the same experience and platform. New technology will enable people to identify and purchase the clothes, furniture, food etc. that appears in the programs they love and the games they play. Brands are also leveraging opportunities to delight at every customer touchpoint, from drip feeding content that reveals itself between the time of order and delivery, to building excitement and a memorable unboxing experience when the package arrives.

Buying is easier and more efficient than ever before, but the true shopping experience – which requires something more than a click and a credit card – is getting lost in the shuffle. It’s imperative that brands combine the ease and efficiency of the online world with the joy and surprise of the in-person experience.

Retailers that bridge The Serendipity Gap are uniquely poised to bring some of that magic back when it’s most missed and so desperately needed. Consumers won’t forget which brands rise to the challenge. 


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McCann EMEA, Tue, 02 Feb 2021 11:45:11 GMT