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Brand Strategy E-commerce Retail Deep Dive

E-commerce brand maturity: How to recreate a premium store experience online

By Julien Decaudin, Lead Experience Designer



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November 17, 2023 | 6 min read

Luxury can be more difficult to evoke online than in the real world of shiny things. For The Drum’s retail deep dive, Unrvld’s Julien Decaudin explores how to establish a premium e-commerce experience.

A grid of boxed gifts in black and gold

How can brands recreate a premium shopping experience online? / Igor Omilaev via Unsplash

With UK retail e-commerce sales expected to reach £295.58 billion by 2025, brands need to look beyond established e-commerce patterns to retain their online market share.

But retail clients often face a challenge in balancing the friction-free e-commerce experience that customers expect with the right kind of brand differentiation to stand out in a competitive market.

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Understanding the value of a premium experience

The expectation of experiencing something unique is what motivates people to visit a brand’s store, rather than shopping for the same products elsewhere.

A premium store environment, relaxing feel, helpful staff, and an extensive range of the latest products are among the reasons people want to come back. This is all about creating excitement and connection around a product and by extension the brand’s core values. Sometimes, this might even help to justify a premium price tag.

Nike, Apple, and New Era are among the most successful brands that understand this by creating unique shopping experiences that are as important as the products on offer.

So, in an increasingly expanding digital landscape, how does a premium store experience translate to a premium e-commerce experience that will make customers want to come back to buy more?

3 levels of brand maturity

There are three levels of e-commerce brand maturity, which together indicate the current state of an e-commerce experience.

  • Level 1 is the e-commerce basics: Successfully implementing e-commerce best practices in offering a frictionless sales funnel based on usability, accessibility, and performance; having a clear product offering with built-in comparison; and supporting customers with their decision-making from the start.

  • Level 2 is advanced branding: Always ensuring a consistent layer of brand application at key moments of the customer journey; and leveraging the brand through instantly recognizable tone of voice, product visuals, sleek interaction, relatable imagery, confident value proposition and unique selling points.

  • Level 3 is a memorable experience: Delivering unexpected and delightful features that help close the gap between digital and in-store experience, including interactive product visualization and customization options to help customers experience the product as they would do in-store.

For example, as we started our partnership with the reusable product manufacturer Chilly’s – a brand with no dedicated physical stores looking to improve its e-commerce performance – we focused on uncovering opportunities to deliver a better user experience, increasing sales by evaluating the site against these levels. The brand’s website did a great job translating the brand through impactful product visuals and engaging product pages, addressing levels one and two of the e-commerce brand maturity scale to a good standard.

From there, we moved to address brand maturity level 3 (creating a memorable experience). We’ve since introduced personalized guidance towards the most suitable product options and configuration for each individual customers need, filling in the role of an in-person sales advisor.

Optimizing engagement

Once all levels of e-commerce brand maturity have been reached, focus on creating an authentic brand experience for your customers.

Accelerated during the pandemic, the move from in-person to digital shopping led to the need for more authenticity and transparency online. These qualities are easier to establish physically and have become essential pillars of successful digital branding, cultivating genuine connections, and fostering long-term loyalty. The consistent use of authentic imagery, real user testimonial and transparent communication across various touchpoint are effective ways to create an environment of trust and credibility through digital platforms.

This builds positive affinity with customers through experiences that they enjoy using to make them feel supported, so that they are happy to come back.

One key aspect of this strategy is broadening access by thinking about different ways to deliver content, like voice-activated search, and audio recordings of written content (and vice versa), such as with Microsoft adaptive accessories.

Simplifying your user interface (UI) can help too, with an emphasis on reducing stress and cognitive load, breaking difficult tasks and decisions into manageable pieces. Great examples of this include Meta Workplace and the language learning app, Duo Lingo.

Finally, focus on brand evaluation; consider using illustration to convey inclusivity and to set a friendly, helpful tone. Also consider color palettes for unsighted and partially-sighted people, not just sighted people.

For more on the future of retail (online and IRL), head over to our deep dive hub.

Brand Strategy E-commerce Retail Deep Dive

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UNRVLD is a digital experience and technology agency that puts business outcomes first. We work with results driven organisations worldwide where digital experience...

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