When was the last time you went window-shopping with friends down a high street, or in a mall? Exactly. That’s the point Anthony Baker, executive technology director at R/GA, made when explaining why brands need to understand the next stage of ecommerce right now.
“Commerce has been redefined,” he told delegates at the Digicon conference in Manila, from the Internet & Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP).
“Social media is the shop window, not the shopping mall. You can buy straight from Instagram and Snapchat with a swipe. People aren’t walking and going window-shopping for inspiration, they’re getting personalised recommendations to their feed.”
Brands talk endlessly about the importance of experiences these days, but Baker made the point that rather than just experience, “value-adding personalisation services are cutting through the noise” with consumers. He pointed to Starbucks sending thousands of different types of personalised emails to its customers, or Estée Lauder using chatbots to help consumers pick their ideal lipstick shade.
“Bring the transaction to where your consumers already are,” Baker said, explaining that a more recent insight found that consumers now like to connect with each other around brand experiences. So if your brand provides a memorable digital experience, the opportunity to grow your consumer base is significant.
The key to this, Baker said, is that with the rise of technology has come a fundamental shift in the consumer journey, which was once linear and predictable.
“A few of the questions I hear from clients include: Are websites dead? Are apps dead? Is retail dead? The answer is that the role is changing based on habits. Previously we worked off media habits, reading, watching, listening. But tech is creating far more consumer habits – voting, liking, sharing, searching, swiping. There are so many more touchpoints for a brand to connect with a consumer.”
Compounding this wealth of entry points are higher consumer expectations driven by what Baker called “service transference” – the idea that if a consumer has a good experience with a brand in one sector, they expect the same level of service and convenience in another. Technology and its critical role in providing this convenience is at the heart of the issue.
But, as Baker reminded the audience, creating a unique, tech-led experience can resonate across all touchpoints. He highlighted R/GA’s work with Snapchat and Air Jordan, which saw new sneakers released and sold exclusively on Snapchat through a specially-created lens. Connecting the digital with the physical, the new Air Jordan shoe sold out worldwide in 23 minutes.
“You have to engage across the experience ecosystem,” he said. “Every single interaction is an opportunity to learn.”
As part of the personalised experience, Baker said that brands today need to think of the people they’re selling to as members, rather than consumers, and create a long-term relationship that keeps them loyal by serving them individually.
“Many brands have behavioural data, some brands have some level of personal data, but very few brands have member data – the one thing that allows a brand to create a connected omnichannel experience," he said. "The transaction is not the finish line, it’s the starting line."