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Dream a little bigger: 5 brands moving beyond the .com paradigm

By Nick Burdett, Digital Director, EMEA



Opinion article

September 26, 2022 | 7 min read

For The Drum’s deep dive into all things e-commerce, Nick Burdett of design agency Landor & Fitch asks: when consumers visit your .com, do they feel a sense of wonder? If not, you’re ignoring a valuable customer group: the ‘dreamers.’

Wireframes for a website

At their core, brands’ .com websites have been the same for too long. Is it time to dream more boldly? / Hal Gatewood via Unsplash

There has been a sharp increase in online shopping over the past few years. By the end of 2021, online sales made up almost a third (30.2%) of retail spending in the UK. Yet, bar a handful of best-practice sites, the joy of shopping is still all too often lost online. Consumers are met with a cross-category sea of sameness; an army of digital warehouses, rather than a high street of experience flagships.

This templated approach follows the footsteps of Amazon. It works, but it’s not exciting. It’s convenient, but not memorable.

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Usually, people visit a .com to order a product they need. This type of shopper mission is one of three we have carved out into the wider ‘DEL’ framework: dreaming, exploring and locating.

While dreaming, consumers are open-minded and most open to being inspired. They may purchase, but only if they are moved to. An exploring shopper has purchase intent in mind and wants to get the right amount of information to validate. The locating shopper has done their research – they’re ready to buy and go straight to the search bar to do so as easily as possible.

While consumers enjoy the unmatched convenience of online shopping via locating and exploring, there’s also a very big opportunity for brands to close the loop and deliver on the dreaming mission.

Time for brands to dream

Whether you want to add a touch of dreaming to your e-commerce experience or go all out on the most dreamlike experience possible, there are options to suit. Digital experiences that appeal to the dreaming mission must be balanced, complementing existing perceptions of the brand.

Small changes make for big impact. Adding a touch of personalization or creating something more experiential and unexpected across a website can make the experience more special, without having to overhaul it entirely. Micro-interactions can help: think little motion features designed to suit your brand that pop up throughout the website experience. These work particularly well with beauty brands, such as Superfluid’s moments of surprise, which pop up across its page.

Our client KitKat Chocolatory is another good example. Following the launch of the São Paulo flagship store, Nestlé Brazil wanted to extend the experience online. The design is inspired by the same wonderland theme and hosts the same features, encouraging play and exploration.

The KitKat Chocolatory website

Luxury fine wines retailer Campo alle Comete has chosen to be completely experimental in its approach, with an utterly unusual brand ‘world’ created on its main website. Its product range is expensive and sought-after, letting it focus more on storytelling, rather than traditional e-commerce.

Experiential spaces hosted specifically to deepen engagement require smart tech adoption. It’s an exciting time, with innovation and solutions being trialed, tested and taken on by brands of all types and size. Looking to the future of e-commerce, the top five to have on the radar are:

1. Motion: a visual sensation

Advancing capabilities in motion design are generating new digital product realities, capturing previously unseen details of products online. ManvsMachine’s ‘Evolution of Sleep’ series for Purple digitally brings to life the feeling of the product. It communicates every element of the mattress as it twists, turns and compresses, showcasing its elasticity and comfort. This is online sensorial sensation at its best.

2. Interactive 3D visualization

The Yeezy Supply website is credited with turning the rules of e-commerce on their head. Customers can select avatar-like 3D images of real models and try clothing on the model of their choice. Shifting user behavior from looking at static images to actively interacting with the virtual products increases purchase likelihood and boosts time spent with the brand.

3. Immersive AR

AR is becoming more accessible, empowering customers to dream big by testing, trying and visualizing products virtually. Ikea Place has become the benchmark in AR app technology, allowing customers to virtually ‘place’ products in their homes using visual search functions. The app facilitates customers as designers of their own spaces, allowing them to truly use their imagination and let dreaming come to the fore as they create their perfect interior.

4. Curated machine learning

Tech startups are turning data science into something personal to create new e-commerce purchase models. Stitch Fix pioneers this approach. Using a smart mix of intelligent machine learning tools and expert human judgment, it has created an e-commerce platform that allows customers to dream about fashion, backed by science.

5. Virtually-assisted social selling

Conversational and assisted shopping are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They are a key route to building stronger relationships via e-commerce, enabling a level of tailored service previously limited to luxury consumers. Deciem at Home connects customers with its in-store micro-influencers for in-real-time consultations using video links.

Bold companies that invest in the e-commerce experience will emerge as future leaders.

Getting ahead of the e-commerce giants isn’t just about short-term tactical responses. It’s about a longer-term play to unlock dreaming missions and forge better customer connections. Hosting a experience over a functional website is an untapped investment.

For more dispatches from the frontiers of selling online, head over to our e-commerce deep dive hub.

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