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Cult launches virtual sampling service for brands targeting remote consumers

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Cult launch virtual sampling service for brands wanting to upgrade their online customer engagement for Christmas

As physical stores shut again with the dawn of a second lockdown across Europe, virtual engagement will be the answer for most brands and retailers.

With 83% of consumers reluctant to get hands-on with products this Christmas (EY, 2020), creative agency Cult has launched a virtual sampling service for brands seeking to upgrade their online customer engagement this holiday season. The service replicates the customer’s real-world journey to purchase on a device and includes elements such as initial contact, trial and social shopping.

The virtual sampling service is the first initiative developed by Cult’s innovation arm, Cult Futures, in response to the pandemic’s devastation on brick-and-mortar retail.

As fears of a second wave cast doubt on a rapid recovery, brands must ensure their real-world and virtual presence work in unison. Cult’s ‘socially-distanced’ social marketing strategies help brands prepare for a Covid-uncertain Christmas, leveraging tactics and technology specifically to engage customers fearful not only of shopping in-store but cautious of any high street sales events.

Cosmetics brand Ciaté London‘s global head of marketing, Nora Zukauskaite, says: “Real-world retail is undergoing a revolution and Christmas is coming. Thanks to the pandemic, consumers want digital-first interactions, so beauty trial in the retail environment must adapt accordingly.

“That‘s why Ciaté London has launched Makeup Minutes – free, virtual beauty consultations. Every customer can book one-to-one sessions with a brand expert to get a personalised experience, be that advice or a tutorial. Cult’s virtual sampling service is very timely. We look forward to working with it.”

With 72% of consumers more eager to buy from digitally innovative retailers (Growcode, 2020), device-based contact has become standard as consumer mindsets and retail patterns of behaviour have fundamentally changed under lockdown, which will only be entrenched into the holiday. The need for tactility and the ability to interact are crucial elements of brand discovery and purchase, but as customers retreat into digital isolation so marketing strategies must change accordingly.

Cult‘s co-founder and global chief exec, Bridey Lipscombe, says: “Brands must now connect with a newly remote, anxious, cash-conscious, choice-overwhelmed, fickle audience while balancing on constantly evolving digital platforms and using technology to replace physical senses. Many marketers may find this new world daunting, but it represents great possibilities.”

Cult has partnered with some of the world’s leading AR creatives, 3D artists and avatar animators to deliver a world-class virtual sampling service for brands preparing for a holiday season unlike any other.

Cult‘s head of strategy, Charlotte Bunyan, concludes: “As marketers, we have to learn a whole new language if we wish to connect meaningfully and communicate effectively to a consumer that is crowd averse, device-savvy and increasingly ambivalent about the in-store experience. The creative application of technology, data and AI is what will define the new order of consumer brands.“

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