Retail & e-commerce: Why forward-thinking retail brands are focusing on personalisation, user generated and shoppable content

Driven by social sharing and consumers’ increasingly mobile lifestyles, the next wave of e-commerce is contextual and personalised. The Drum takes a look at some of the ways retailers are looking to achieve this.

Shoppable content

Marketers have long been experimenting with shoppable content, but with online video more popular than ever this could be a development that’s about to really take off. Online retailer Net-a-Porter and fashion designer Temperley recently partnered to create the first shoppable fashion film which allowed viewers to click on and purchase the pieces shown within the video.

Meanwhile, Levi’s rolled out a shoppable film on its new digital platform as part of the $96m global campaign ‘Live in Levi’s’. By clicking on the video when they’re interested in a particular story or look, users can access additional content including videos, photo galleries and links to shop the looks.

“Shoppable video is created using HTML5 and by embedding appropriate interactivity over the top of a specific video item, or by synchronising an external creative element with the pertinent part of the video,” says James Booth, CEO and co-founder of video tech company Rockabox. As with all emerging tech innovations, there are however some issues around shoppable video – namely how to avoid intruding on the user experience, explains Booth.

“From a tech point of view there is a challenge connected with how to blend interactive functionality into a video without spoiling the user experience. For this reason most shoppable videos tend to be product promotions rather than the entire line of products.

Consumers are used to e-commerce working in a certain way and can become confused and frustrated if a retailer’s site turns into a content hub rather than somewhere they can simply buy what they want.” Lack of consumer trust may also prove a barrier for the growth of this technology, according to Booth, who says that completing a purchase outside of a brand domain can prove tricky with consumers.

Personalisation

Consumers increasingly inherently expect brand experiences to be contextual and tailored to them. Short attention spans and a mass of content vying for their attention makes this even more pertinent for advertisers, but technology has aided the process. Wolf Allisat, SVP international at tag management company Ensighten, says: “Technology has driven a rapid change in the past 20 years, with brands now fully grasping that the data they hold on their consumers is essential to delivering increasingly personalised experiences.” The challenge for marketers, says Allisat, is to “unify their data across channels” to keep up with the multichannel experience being driven by consumers.

“The way consumers interact online is seamless, so retail experiences need to reflect this behaviour, and this can only be achieved by weaving together data from onsite, offsite and offline channels,” he adds. “Modern, agile consumers are searching, shopping and sharing wherever they are and whenever they want to; they demand a seamless experience that allows them to flit between channels and touch points at will, and with no loss of quality or momentum,” says Peter Martin, managing partner, UK head of retail experience at Cheil, adding that retailers should consider how to humanise technology to improve the customer experience – for instance, by creating a loyalty smartphone app to provide inspired and revelant offers.

User generated content

Retail and fashion brands are using social channels and their engaged online communities to reap the rewards of user-generated content – not simply for awareness but as a conversion tool too. Recent examples include Asos’ As Seen on Me channel, which links customers’ own content with e-commerce. Recent research from Crowdtap and Ipsos found that user-generated content is 20 per cent more influential than any other type of media when it comes to purchasing, and 50 per cent more trusted.

“User generated content is a great indication of engagement or commitment, and brands can derive enormous benefit from consumers sharing interesting, fun or positive experiences with one another,” says Peter Martin, head of shopper marketing and retail experience at Cheil UK. “Our herding instinct means that we are more likely to be influenced by likeminded individuals than by corporate entities, gaining reassurance through ‘social proofing’. When it doesn’t feel forced, prompting sharing behaviour can incite a triumph of advocacy over advertising, inspire purchase or force a product or brand onto a consumer’s wish list.”

This feature was first published as part of The Drum magazine's retail and e-commerce focus, sponsored by Greenlight, published in the 3 September issue.

Word from the sponsor

The number of touch points in the customer commerce journey has greatly increased over the last few years and the trend is continuing to rise. The evolution of single channel to multichannel and now omnichannel experiences are providing many challenges for retailers and transactional businesses to keep customers engaged and ultimately enticed to spend.

Until recently the focus has been on providing a consistent message and experience to the customer, but this was predicated on assuming the retailer knew exactly what the customer was trying to do or the main reason for their visit (which in the past was just to buy something online). Nowadays, there is an emerging trend that is seeing retailers move towards providing a tailored digital experience, relevant to the stage of the commerce relationship the customer is at. Customers are now interacting digitally with brands in many different ways that start with discovering the brand, finding products and researching their shopping options. Hopefully they will then come back to buy something else or get more information on a particular product.

As customers return over time, their engagement with the brand should be at the point where they have built up trust and are evangelising the brand by sharing content via social networks, all of which increase conversion and average basket value. This interaction will occur via many different channels such as the desktop site, mobile site, call centre, mobile app, external market places and even print media. Retailers need to make sure they are prepared for this level of digital experience and ensure they have both the strategy and systems in place to move as quickly as their customers’ behaviours and engagement expectations are changing.

Kevin Murray, director of e-commerce and technology solutions, Greenlight

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