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How the home is becoming a new battleground for e-commerce

As digital technologies rapidly advance, a digital commerce mindset is necessary

Consumers increasingly want a different relationship with a brand, especially as they continue to spend more time at home. Amid a thriving e-commerce market, opportunities are plenty for today's retailers to reimagine commerce experiences for consumers, says Mohammed Sirajuddeen, growth and digital commerce lead for growth markets at Accenture Interactive.

Home has become the hub for most interactions and activities, especially in the last 18 months, primarily spurred by the pandemic. The enhanced remote lifestyles and increased reliance on technology have evolved and transformed home commerce. Changes in shopping habits fueled a dramatic rise in e-commerce – online purchases for products by infrequent e-commerce users in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region increased by 384%. Even with restrictions easing and many businesses reopening, 86% of consumers globally still plan to continue or increase working at home.

While retailers have responded with new products, services, and innovations, there remains a high expectation for brands to continue to cater to the evolving needs of consumers at home. With the global home market opportunity expected to grow to as much as US$184 billion by 2025, the home is fast becoming the new battleground for retailers and brand marketers. Retail businesses have a unique opportunity to rethink how they can cater to the pandemic-adapted consumer.

Build convenient and connected commerce experiences

Think digital commerce – consumption hubs, direct-to-consumer strategies, and click-and-collect solutions. Research has shown that more than half of consumers in APAC have reimagined their values and purpose and what drives them to purchase products and services after the pandemic. 58% of these "reimagined" consumers would switch retailers if they were not offered new fast and flexible delivery options such as click-and-collect and curbside pickup. As consumers choose to stay at home, brand marketers must proactively think about enhancing the digital customer experiences, including blending the digital and physical worlds to optimize every level of the consumer journey.

For example, BMW launched their new second-generation X5 through an action-packed Augmented Reality (AR) experience. For consumers in Malaysia, it means being able to see, hear, feel and experience the vehicle through their smartphone from the safe confines of their home amid lockdown restrictions. China's Snow Beer designed a digitally connected platform that transcended offline and online spaces, allowing fans to connect to "meet-up" parties, including hotpot gatherings or street dance battles, look up F&B establishments that offered Snow Beer as well as gift and purchase beers.

As digital technologies rapidly advance, a digital commerce mindset is necessary. For brand marketers, accelerating and optimizing digital commerce channels (including marketplaces, social commerce, and D2C) will help them lean closer to the home-bound consumer demanding speed and efficiency.

Leverage AI, data, and analytics

Today's most successful brands use deep human insights combined with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence to transform how they do business entirely, from predicting trends and preferences, personalization, and consumer communications via chatbots and live chats.

The beauty industry is increasingly allowing consumers to try cosmetics virtually, enabling companies to collect data on who their consumers are, what products they try and buy (or not buy), where and when they engage, and provide in-app or off-app personalized recommendations. Similarly, consumer goods companies globally are heavily investing in data-centric marketing approaches that combine social listening, CRM, and traditional market research.

The combination of these technologies, alongside the insights gained, is creating an increasingly responsive, authentic, and human-centric relationship between brands and consumers. By putting to good use first-party data and analytics to drive personalization and better consumer engagement, retailers are sending a strong message to their consumers – whether at home or outside – that they would like to create an experience that supports them in their daily lives.

Embrace social commerce as the new frontier

Social shopping has been picking up pace in recent times. In the APAC region, social commerce sales are expected to surpass US$4 trillion by 2024, growing consistently 25% year on year. Total social commerce orders in the first half of 2020 in South East Asia more than doubled, while gross merchandise value (GMV) grew three-fold. 84% of social media shoppers in the same region will purchase more via social media in the next few years.

Social commerce opportunities are apparent for retailers, but the challenge lies in creating an experience that truly engages with consumers. Retailers in China are supercharging their e-commerce offerings by seamlessly integrating social networks with innovative functions such as mini-programs and live streaming. Outside of China, 85% of consumers in South East Asia find it 'quick and easy to buy products on social media. And for 53% of consumers worldwide, the likelihood to purchase increases if it is a business they can message.

The acceleration of online shopping has forced retailers to adapt, converging the worlds of social media, e-commerce, and advertising. Whether retailers seek to develop their virtual stores or leverage advertising on social media to reach the home-bound consumer, the need for a well-designed social consumer relationship management system that can predict trends, hyper-personalized messages, drive smooth end-to-end digital experiences, and deliver timely and conversational customer interactions will be of extreme importance.

Consumers increasingly want a different relationship with a brand, especially as they continue to spend more time at home. Amid a thriving e-commerce market, opportunities are plenty for today's retailers to reimagine commerce experiences for consumers. Those who take this chance to reset strategies and create new standards using data, creativity, and technology will grow from the accelerated shifts post-pandemic.

Mohammed Sirajuddeen is the growth and digital commerce lead for growth markets at Accenture Interactive.

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