By Archana Mohan, Account Director at Labbrand

Couple of days back, I was picking shoes and sandals for the summer with my 3 year old daughter on my lap, I saw her deeply gazing into the laptop screen as she was reeling under the anticipation of receiving the choices at our doorstep – and it struck me how normalized it appeared! Of course, I am an active online shopper joining ranks with 70% of the US population – however, my daughter has never experienced the world of online retail and it was her first time. This made me think about the deluge of first-time online shoppers, because of the pandemic, and the impact it is having on retail and the potential for digital transformation to not just meet expectations but truly enhance the experience, by moving it beyond just commerce!. 

Archana Mohan, Account Director at Labbrand

What is digital transformation – as  Microsoft succinctly captures it : “Digital transformation is about reimagining how you bring together people, data, and processes to create value for your customers and maintain a competitive advantage in a digital-first world.”

With a digital-as-default lifestyle emerging as the new normal, post the pandemic, there are certain aspects of the shopping journey that present more opportunities or challenges, within the context of digital transformation  – depending on the way we want to look at it. 

  1. Trigger moment –  the moment when you feel the itch/ urge to buy which leads to purchase: the trigger could be situational, cognitive or even interpersonal and these micro-moments have to be capitalized successfully, as conversion from cart to purchase is precariously poised in the online world. Online shoppers are known for adding things to the cart that they end up never purchasing vs. in physical retail, consumers are less likely to remove items from the cart at the cashier. Streaming to a very large extent has proved to be a successful way to maximize conversion of interest to purchase in China – this is still to be optimally used in many other markets. The hosts/ influencers manning these streaming shows are forces to reckon with – when they say ‘buy’ consumers immediately do, giving little time to themselves to rationalize the purchase. Brands are beginning to invest in this by incorporating streaming as an additional channel within their own website – such as Lancome & Estee Lauder, allowing the brands to successfully own the shopping journey and convert shoppers to buyers. 
  2. Moments of exposure – visibility, repeated exposure, experience prior to purchase are some of the concepts that form the core of the physical retail store – how can this phenomena of ‘moments of authentic exposure’ be recreated within the online world? The online digital shoppers are increasingly shunning paid ads – with the click through rates dropping to under .05% across all platforms. Brands and retailers need to get creative about creating repeated exposure to ensure visibility and top of mind recall – and the answer could very well lie in content creation. Tiktok / Instagram Live (streaming), Instagram (video/image) & Pinterest (image) have the ability to create that sense of familiarity which can trigger a purchase intent or support  a purchase intent by clarifying fears that may keep a prospect away from purchase, in an organic and engaging manner. All platforms of online consumption/ social media now become credible pathways to establish a connection with the shopper and need to be re-imagined as storefronts. 
  3. Sense of discovery: one of the most exciting parts of going to a physical store, is the opportunity to discover – as we walk or pace through the aisles, we often come across something that makes us stop, consider and eventually buy. This sense of discovery to a very large extent appears to be compromised in the online shopping experience, as I search for what I THINK I NEED. Switching to interest driven profiling (think NETFLIX) might hold a lot of potential. Appealing to the shoppers deeper desires that are driving the shopping trip is key – it could be rallying behind the image that they want to portray (e.g. Mindful guru, Expert home cook, Road warriors)) or helping the consumers shortlist based on feedback from a similar cohort of consumers. This will help brands/ retailers to close purchases faster, achieve higher order sizes, increase repeat purchases – thereby increasing the lifetime value of the shopper. Gamification is another interesting strategy – akin to mobile gaming, where the user is granted currency for free & then provided options to spend it on ‘lives’ or ‘weapons’, thereby breaking the habit loop and decreasing the risk of stepping out of the comfort zone → ultimately triggering discovery. . 

The above are some strategical priorities for brands and retailers to consider as they usher in retail to the next frontier, by keeping the soul and heart through the digital transformation.