The digital economy growth accelerated by the pandemic is still booming. Social and e-commerce platforms seem to be constantly upgrading to seamlessly integrate the ability to ‘click and buy.’ While tech advances are answering the expectations of a time-stretched, digital-native generation, with that comes rising tension. Shifts in mindset around conscious consumption, social media detoxing and stricter financial constraints are all challenges to the instinctive thrill of ‘add to cart.’
This week’s 52INSIGHTS looks at how younger customers are changing how they shop digitally - plus the latest e-commerce channel updates, and the increase in responsible digital-consumption.
High Expectations and Social Commerce
In 2022 US social commerce sales are expected to reach $45.74 billion, and set to nearly triple by 2025. There are lots of intersectional drivers influencing this - like the rise of video content, in the form of live streams and ‘shoppable’ clips inspiring buyers. A lot of the buzz around social commerce has tipped Live Shopping Streams as the next big thing, which is hugely popular on platforms like Douyin, the Chinese platform akin to TikTok. To keep up, social media platforms are consistently updating their APIs for ecommerce to create a 'double-tap-like-add-to-basket-buy'-type experience.
Innovation in this space moves fast. New functionality is popping up every day, to help unlock more intuitive e-shopping experiences. While we see the friction-reducing functionality externally as we shop, behind the interface there is a hub of multiple, deep layers of technology - like transaction tech, data security, blockchain, tokenization, encryption and integrated logistics. Considering the complexity involved, it’s important to consider that not all channels are going to be 100% commerce-supported.
Considering Youth's Changing Mindsets
Many of those shifting their shopping habits to digital platforms are doing so for the financial incentive (especially amidst rising inflation): “I love when I’m buying something that someone else has used but I get it way cheaper and it’s better for the environment - like via Depop. I’m excited to also be a part of the circular economy of it and sell my own clothes on it too.” Tara, 30, London
We know that young shoppers love how accessible and democratic e-commerce can make the shopping experience feel - whether it’s through increased product choice or the ability to buy/sell on the same platforms for example. However, we also see an increase in anxiety emerging about the sustainability of all this buying. As solutions-focused as ever, in the midst of this fast-paced e-commerce cycle many young people are learning to adopt new mindful approaches to shopping more responsibly.
“You might buy something not because it’s useful, but because it might build part of your identity. And in this time of individualism, we’ve also been taught that buying something new will make you feel better. The thing is, it’s been proven that your peak happiness around buying an item actually happens in the moments before you pay for it.” Emma Gleeson, Author of Stuff Happens!
The impact of the channels themselves also plays an important role for our younger shopper. For the digital-natives who have grown up with social media, more and more Gen Z are questioning their social media choices. For some young people, (the habit of mindless) scrolling can lead to unhealthy/aspirational comparison and trigger spending; "There was an element of aesthetically wanting to live up to Instagram.”
Now there are more and more platforms offering a community-led user experience, giving shoppers back buying-selling power in an almost one-to-one experience, while the platform itself focuses on more sustainability and conscious improvements. Platforms, like Vinted for reselling or Nuw for clothing exchanges, are gaining more and more traction. Popular reselling app, Depop, has mastered the social media shopping experience.
“To me, Depop is like the best flea market in the world, you can haggle, shop from celebrities and if you're not into buying you can sell too. And because the functionality is similar to other social platforms, it’s easy to find and shop from people you might follow on another social channels. It’s a massive draw for our community to be able shop clothes they care about from people they care about. That it’s a sustainable alternative to shopping makes it all the better.” Megan Tynan-O’Mahony, creative lead, Depop
Prepare Yourself For The Ever-Evolving Shopper Journey - as functionality changes, our expectations of brand experiences increase. Things just have to be simple, easy and convenient - including unparalleled customer experiences to clear and transparent information that show clearly your brand values (and supply chain). There are endless possibilities for brand and product discovery and so this is an opportunity for brands to really consider the wider shopper journey, and how and when to bring in new ways to connect. It may feel like something that isn’t for all brands, but on platforms like Pinterest or Tiktok (with their DIY tips or viral recipes) there continue to be opportunities where you may least expect it every day:
"You might think social commerce isn't going to work for all brands, but for Benecol, the products with cholesterol-lowering plant stanols enjoyed by millions, we're proud of our recent success in this space. By taking an approach of integrating social commerce into our Benecol channels and looking holistically at the whole customer journey, we recently saw an overall increase in click-through rate from 2% to 10%. After identifying specific pain points and focusing on hyper-relevant social assets, our community is able to access our products in a smooth and seamless way and helping lowering even more people's cholesterol." Laura O’Connell, Brand Manager, Benecol Ireland.
Different Shopping Functionality is Key - For example, shopping digitally doesn’t also mean products have to be shipped. In addition to increased interest in solely ‘digital’ goods (like education courses or products in the metaverse) we are seeing spikes in click and collect formats or Buy Now and Pay Later options. As financial challenges continue in the coming months, buy now and pay later is likely to rise in popularity even more.
Make the Responsible Choice - With a growing awareness of how overconsumption is harming people and planet (and how social media usage can negatively impacting our mental health), it is important to make sure that any e-commerce experience is considered through a responsible, conscious lens. Maybe ditch the terminology of ‘consumer’ and embrace a mindset which unlocks more mindful shopping opportunities?
“Young internet-users love the creativity and entertainment they get through social media, but it’s important to be mindful of young people feeling hopeless thanks to the addictive nature of an attention economy. It’s our responsibility to make sure we’re adding value everywhere we show up and not just getting people to ‘add to basket’.” Fiona O’Grady, content strategy director, The Youth Lab at THINKHOUSE.
This responsibility does not just lie in the hands of shoppers, brands have a powerful opportunity to unlock the wide-reaching change that modern shoppers are asking for. Brands have a clear mandate from younger shoppers to provide more solutions to enable a more sustainable shopping experience - and indeed, more mindful consumption habits to benefit all shoppers.view more - Trends and Insight