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Commerce is about selling an experience, not just selling stuff

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Momentum on the importance of personalization, integration and flexibility

I have no doubt 2021 will give us a summer to remember. After almost 15 months of quarantining, social distancing, loss, grief, precaution and fear, Americans are ready to let loose and enjoy everything life has to offer.

And Americans are ready for it – not only emotionally, but also financially. Savings are at an all-time high. The personal savings rate hit a historic 33% in April, as tracked by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, and credit card debt is an all-time low, with Experian estimating overall credit card debt decreased for the first time in eight years, dropping by $73bn (nearly a 9% decrease). Banks, quite literally, do not know what to do with all the cash they have at hand, which most experts agree means interest rates will continue to be low, making both short-term and long-term financing extremely affordable.

Yes, this summer will be great! And it will also be expensive. Not only for consumers choosing to do more of everything to fill summer with activities and create new memories, but also for more frugal consumers, as forecasted shortages and higher prices across the board are expected to kick-in early this summer. Just last week, the Federal Reserve Bank adjusted its forecasted inflation rate for 2021 to 3.4%, up from its previous estimate of 2.4%. It will also be an expensive summer for marketers and brands, as they will have to spend more money to reach fickle consumers in more innovative ways, and will face tougher competition from increased spending from competitors that will be trying to outsmart and outspend each other.

All these forces will create tension for consumers and shoppers across the nation. They will want to balance their desire to have a summer to remember with their need to be fiscally responsible; they will battle to balance indulgence with sensible choices. I believe there will be room for both: they will be seeking more instant gratification while finding ways to make their money go further.

So what do brands need to do to navigate these tricky yet potentially rewarding waters?

First, we must all understand that commerce is no longer the mere act of buying and selling. Commerce is an experience. Shoppers are no longer limited to fixed ways of buying, as the experiences brands can create to engage shoppers are near infinite. Above all, we must understand commerce can happen everywhere and anywhere.

As you think about how to drive commerce everywhere and anywhere, I offer you three pillars to create commerce experiences that can help you drive commercial results this summer:

Personalization: Forget the long-held idea of crafting and deploying single-target campaigns. Instead, replace them with multi-target activations born out of the same strategic seed that then take unique creative expressions depending on the different audiences you are addressing. Take, for example, L’Oreal’s Garnier ‘Open Up to Beautiful Browns’ campaign in India. The iconic brand used a combination of audience segments to identify 37 core groups across the country’s top 35 metro areas, including Beauty Mavens, Fashionistas, TV Show Audiences, Travel and Movie Lovers. The brand then used Google Web Designer to craft relevant sets of calls to action and imagery to address the unique needs of each of the 37 segments.

This is a call to embrace reality and move into the future of commerce; your brand needs to be bought by disparate shopper segments, not just one. Act accordingly.

Integration: The world has evolved, and so should your campaigns. Long gone are the days of linear conversion funnels with a handful of touchpoints at each stage. The forward commerce activations of the summer need to blend disparate shopper-specific media channels, both vendor-driven and retailer-owned, with traditional consumer-engagement media and cutting-edge commerce-driving techniques such as social commerce, gaming commerce, delivery commerce and experiential commerce. This mixture will create fully immersive activations that meet shoppers where they live their lives while reducing the effort they need to make to get your product. Make it easy for them to find you, and you will be rewarded.

Flexibility: Forget static, fully-planned-out campaigns with clear beginnings and ends. Instead, focus on creating flexible ecosystems and dynamic, always-on activations that evolve over time as your shoppers’ preferences evolve, and as you learn about what works (and what doesn’t). Don’t be afraid to try new things, fail fast and learn from your mistakes so you can fine-tune what you do as you get the most valuable feedback shoppers can give you: their business.

Embrace these three pillars – personalization, integration and flexibility – and make the summer of 2021 one to remember for your shoppers, your brands and your bottom line.

Adrián Velázquez, vice-president, group director – strategy, NA at Momentum Worldwide.

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