With stay-at-home orders and physical store closures, it’s no surprise that during Covid-19, consumers have moved faster than ever towards e-commerce platforms. However, this sudden migration has also created an overnight expectation that digital experiences would be able to replicate offline experiences to a tee.
Consumers now expect more from their digital experiences. This has agencies scrambling to stay ahead of the growing expectations of this market. As Sanne Drogtrop, VP business & operations at MediaMonks APAC, puts it “quarantining has literally propelled e-commerce into hyperdrive".
“In a very short amount of time, the concept of digital commerce has changed tremendously. Where this used to be based on digital marketplaces, it's now fully integrated into the entire customer decision journey,” she says.
According to Drogtrop, changes to the e-commerce sphere have seen it become more sophisticated in the way that brands can now use platforms to connect with customers. She says the focus must now be on value exchange to give people the best experience.
“Social posts have become shoppable, brands are mixing original content with commerce and live streams are shoppable in real time. It’s now important to try and create an online experience that mimics some of the emotions that physical shopping brings. It's really about redefining what these impulses and emotions are that you want your consumers to have, and then translating it into the best digital customer experience,” she explains.
Brand values over product value
Via Abano, product marketing manager, FMCG and retail for Facebook APAC, says the last six months have seen the emergence of several notable trends, including:
■ A surge in Gen X and Baby Boomers using mobile and e-commerce;
■ Growth in self-gifting and seasonal shopping;
■ Consumers are becoming more open to new products and services, making them more likely to discover new products online from new and different brands.
Abano also says consumers are viewing brands differently through a digital lens: “There is this whole new perspective on value and differentiation. And this makes it more important for brands to communicate authenticity and their unique brand values in the online and mobile space.”
Another expectation from this digital migration is that consumers now expect highly customised offers and seamless transitioning between platforms. Eunice Loh, head of precision, Asia Pacific, Wavemaker, says this can be achieved by understanding the motivations behind shopping behaviour.
She explains: “Something to note when we talk about a seamless experience is it's not only between platforms, but also within the platform itself and that may sometimes be overlooked. And within the platform itself, there are also a lot of areas for content to be optimised.”
Test and learn < Test and skill
Loh says when it comes to their clients’ e-commerce campaigns, test and learn tactics are becoming the norm, as “with e-commerce campaigns the duration is quite short and the stakes are quite high”.
“It's also important for the system to stabilise before you jump to conclusions. If not, there's a possibility that there may be some premature decisions that may not be the most relevant or appropriate,” she says.
Jed Charungcharoenvejj, partner and chief marketing officer at Southeast Asia-based N-Squared eCommerce, says A/B testing and conversion lift tests are fundamental for success in this new e-commerce-led market.
“We use testing to get an understanding, and then we would use this case study to basically implement the best plan,” he says.
As customers switch fluidly between platforms and devices, it is important to look at the consumer as an individual and not just as a series of channels.
Charungcharoenvejj adds: “You should bring all their customer data, their orders data, or the inquiries into one single system, so that our customer service agents, or anyone who's supporting the client and potential customer requests can see that complete path to purchase.”
Make it personal
According to MediaMonk’s Drogtrop, the biggest opportunity in digital commerce at present is, unsurprisingly, data and balancing that with personalisation, as consumers are now expecting personalised offerings in a privacy-safe way.
“Data allows personalisation at scale. Understanding people's preferences and knowing what audiences care about is the best fuel for creativity that converts,” she says.
N-Squared eCommerce’s Charungcharoenvejj gives the example of the Facebook Discovery Commerce system, which has allowed them to promote personalisation at scale by providing relevant products to the right customers.
“Facebook is really helping brands to reach the customer through discovery. Instead of waiting for the demand to come in, we are able to use features that allow brands to do content marketing, or even do more specific targeting with collaborators, including retargeting, cross-selling, or upselling certain products and categories to the consumers.”
Facebook’s Abano says Discovery Commerce is a simple way to meet these new expectations of ease of use and personalisation. She points out that in the early days of social media, consumers weren't used to relevant content finding them, whereas today it’s the rule, not the exception.
“Discovery Commerce is really around enabling businesses to go one step further. It's not just about meeting consumer needs, but anticipating them. People are now not only limited to products they have searched for. Now, It's around products finding people so they can discover the things that they're most likely to love,” she says.
Abano says marketers have previously been used to a more linear path to purchase through the use of traditional media, or counting on SEO and hoping their products get discovered by those using the search functionality.
She adds: “Now it's more about understanding these preferences and customer profiles to make sure that we help them reach the right products. And for us at Facebook, we really find it to be quite a game-changer solution for traditional brands and businesses aiming to accelerate their e-commerce business, because they're able to target shoppers with the highest purchase intent.”
Abano said that agencies have an opportunity to be thought partners for clients and shape 2021 with them. She shares four key points that agencies should consider as they plan for the future:
i. Refocus the business on strategies to win key moments
ii. Pressure test all online campaigns to drive effectiveness
iii. Make sure your offering has a strong point of differentiation to stand out in e-commerce
iv. Build flexible marketing strategies through innovation and marketing touch points
Wavemakers’ Loh says testing and learning will be paramount for success in the new e-commerce landscape, and suggests experimenting to keep up with growing consumer expectations.
“Testing and learning is going to continue to be important in this climate. Consumers are getting more exposed to good commerce execution and functionalities, and they will start seeing this as more of a status quo. So it's important for brands to really lean in to continue to build systems for these consumers through all of these new functionalities,” she says.
“The message then is simple. In an ever more competitive landscape, it is no longer enough for agencies to help clients find customers who are looking for their kind of product. It is also about being able to generate demand further up the decision journey, and ultimately help products find the right consumers.”