When most people think of “shopping”, they think of the whole process of browsing and getting inspired, and not just sourcing goods. Unfortunately, many (online) retailers still do not manage to generate the first impulse to buy or to use their customers' willingness to buy.
With a great store design, a personal and friendly welcome, a pleasant scent, relaxed background music, inspiring store furnishings, good product presentation and advice, attractive offers, quick availability, simple payment processing, special product packaging and delivery, and subsequent customer loyalty, a positive shopping experience can be increased. But if all of that is missing and potential customers are instead presented with dingy shops, a complicated checkout process, a lack of selection of payment options and non-existent or unfriendly service, the desire quickly turns into great frustration. There have never been so many offline opportunities to address customers in a motivating and sales-promoting manner as online.
Without a doubt, due to the constant development of new technologies, retail is subject to enormous pressure to adapt to new communication channels; hence, you have to deal with it not to lose out. Many of the innovations have an impact on the shopping behavior of customers, their expectations and habits. Online first has been the norm since the global pandemic, fueling real-time communications, and that in turn flows into the design of the content, so that humanity, authenticity and real-time communication are now high in demand.
Customer centricity is key
The desire for individualization and a direct approach will certainly continue to increase. To achieve this in digital, non-direct face-to-face communication, you need knowledge of your own customers and target groups, good data management and secure handling of this data in accordance with data protection regulations.
Anyone who focuses on individual customer needs, communicates personally with the community and ensures an inspiring or at least positive shopping experience has a good chance of being rewarded with customer loyalty. Thanks to the technological possibilities, a digital presence can be scaled more easily, and the customer journey can be personalized in real time. But even in pure e-commerce, however, the wheat is increasingly being separated from the chaff. Not all online retailers are able or willing to collect, merge and meaningfully evaluate their personal customer data along the customer journey.
Perfection destroys emotion
With the proliferation of smartphones, a new era of internet communication began right after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. The emergence of social media networks, from one-to-many communication with no return channel, suddenly became many-to-many communication with a wide range of reaction and interaction options (chats, emojis, likes, shares, comments, voice messages, etc.).
The fact that social media channels are not only used for communication and as an advertising forum, but can also be used as a sales channel, only began to dawn on us around 2010, with the growing success of influencers.
The combination of mobile Internet-enabled device, built-in photo and video camera and membership in social networks enabled users to present themselves live to other users worldwide. Suddenly, people prefer to follow internet personalities instead of company appearances and media – influence and social selling were born. It was only the Corona crisis that made it clear to many companies that digital channels offer an alternative to reach more people personally, and so necessity became a virtue.
The success with live advice via WhatsApp, Facetime or Zoom, the presentation of goods on Instagram and Facebook, the quick creation of an online shop (on the same channels) and social media communication has made digitization, e-commerce and social media an enormous boon to shopping.
All the funny private videos that were comforting during the Corona crisis have certainly also played their part, because everything has become a little more approachable and, above all, more personal. And at the same time, it has exposed the weaknesses of e-commerce over the past 20 years. Up to now, there has been a lack of personality, interpersonal relationships, direct customer communication, and thus authenticity and entertainment – which is technically verifiable as perfection and hyper-efficiency.
Livestream shopping combines entertainment and consumption
Classic e-commerce can also learn a lot from social commerce and the Corona crisis and their motto “We love to entertain you.” Indeed, entertainment and consumption benefit each other in live shopping, as shown by teleshopping broadcasts, which are currently gaining momentum in a digitized form: livestream shopping.
By directly linking the sales promoter's mobile device, customers can be taken on individual shopping tours. Sellers interact with them, entertain them, present their USPs and drive sales. The whole thing is supported by the time limit, shortage of goods and special offers (e.g., special prices, service, additional functions, special editions, etc.). Besides selling, this new form of advertising is also entertaining, especially in the long run. In addition to measurable sales promotion, livestream shopping events and the videos that can be accessed later are very well suited to generating lively, state-of-the-art content for all company channels. This makes them very good marketing, because no other format allows such closeness to your own community or the opportunity to build one.
The store as a show stage
The good news for digital and stationary multichannel companies is that livestream shopping can enormously increase the attractiveness and reach of the brand store. The shop is not tied to business hours and can be used more profitably and create better room concepts for experience, "storytelling" and "community building".
Companies today are forced to do much more than just selling products. In the increasing competition for customer attention, attention-grabbing staging and real "contact points" are needed to be able to build and maintain the best possible customer relationships.
A good idea and design of the "point of sale" or "point of experience" that takes all this into account not only influences the customer experience, but also the important role of the customer as a brand ambassador. Younger customers in particular expect their brand to give them the opportunity to participate. And for the dealers themselves, their shop should also be made usable as a show stage. Whether outside the regular shop opening hours, on special occasions or during lockdowns, the store must be able to be used as a "content creation studio". This offers retailers the opportunity to digitally expand their stationary space and use them, for example, as a livestream shopping studio.
So, why not turn the store into a show stage and sell online from the store? The positive effect is the promotion and increase in the attractiveness of your own shop. With a "Live@Store" sales show, perhaps even combined with attractive local or even international show acts, retailers can then stand up to the TV entertainment programs themselves. Entirely new fields of activity are opening up here for the experience shops in retail design and visual merchandising that have been in demand for years.
Sales experts in front of the camera
To be able to operate this form of digital trade, you not only need the location, an online shop and the software or app that connects both, but also the necessary fulfillment know-how. And it needs good, telegenic and motivated sales professionals and product experts in front of the camera.
Because apart from the fact that they must deal with the new method of live shopping, not everyone wants to and can (re)present live in front of the camera. In contrast to testimonials with a purely promotional effect, a person who fits the brand and target group must also master the entertaining and professional sales component. It does not matter whether the person is famous or even well-known, but rather that their sales skills make them appear competent and credible enough to win the customers' trust.
As we've all experienced first-hand over the past two years, frequent exposure to new digital tools and things creates a positive routine. This also applies to the booming trend of livestream shopping, true to the motto "learning by doing”.
By Daniela La Marca