Experience shopping

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This article written by Anish Dasgupta, was published in issue 06 of Social Technology Quarterly.

Summary: The primary objective of the online marketer today is to drive loyalty by providing the best possible shopping experiences – ones that steer customers to come back for more. This article looks at experiences modern e-commerce sites offer.

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Experience shopping

  1. 1. Social Technology Quarterly 06Online commerce has come a long wayin the last two decades. From an ancillarychannel it has grown to a recognized methodof doing business. E-commerce platformstoday are being upgraded to next generationtechnologies to enable cross-channel selling,segmentation, personalization, enhancedsearch, better navigation and more. Whilethe specifics may vary, each optimization hasthe same goal: to maximize potential revenuethrough improved user experience.The basics of doing business, however,remain the same. Customer trust and loyaltyremain vital to businesses. While technologyis upgraded to the back-end every fewyears to maintain infrastructure, it is userexperience (not from a design perspectivealone) that is key to their survival. The linebetween online and offline sales has blurredand many companies have dropped the ‘e’altogether. As a result, crossing channels isnow the leading driver for revenue.The majority of commerce portals online seekto drive traffic by using price as the primemotivator, but have enjoyed limited success.Moreover, they have failed to create long termuser loyalty. There is no denying that price isthe first consideration for a lot of purchases,especially when it comes to products that areexpensive and have a short-term productcycle – like air tickets. However, if one islooking to buying something that lasts longer,which can include an expansive range ofthings from books to curios to refrigerators,there are a plethora of e-stores to choosefrom. What then is the factor that drives theplatform chosen by customers?Trendwatching.com recently reported that alot of consumers no longer only look at thecost or the convenience of online shopping.Just as with brand retail outlets, they do notmind shelling out a few extra dollars for aproduct, if they trust the store they are buyingit from. While gaining this trust is not reallyeasy, some brands have made a headwayExperienceShoppingThe primary objectiveof the online marketertoday is to drive loyalty byproviding the best possibleshopping experiences –ones that steer customersto come back for more.This article looks atexperiences moderne-commerce sites offer.by Anish DasguptaPhoto Credit: Sidewalk FlyingCommerce
  2. 2. Kulizaand leveraged strategies and ideas based onthese insights.Shopping is about discoveryAn objective of shopping is to “wow” oneself.Therefore every shopping experience hasa lot to do with discovering. A lot of peoplewalk into curio and handicraft stores withoutthe express purpose of buying anything inparticular. They go in, browse through themerchandise, and if something catches theireye, they buy it.OpenSky is an e-store that provides deals onproducts hand-picked by experts in fashion,health, food, and design. They promise todeliver “What you were looking for, beforeyou started looking.” Their Pinterest-likeinterface features product shots with briefdescriptive titles without brand names – justlike one would come across in a curio shop.Discovery begins fundamentally at figuring outproducts and services. It elevates to levels ofbuilding associations with the brand. Loyaltycards, offers, discounts are some ways todiscover more about a brand and also aboutpeople’s behaviours. The elevation then isalso about discovering loyalties, shoppingpatterns, and enthusiasm towards specificbrands not from the perspective alone of aseller but consumers themselves.Products have a story to tellMany products have a story in their creation,while some others gain significance post-sale.In both cases, it is the story that the customercan tell when talking about the product. Forinstance, a hand-crafted artifact may haveoriginated from a particular tribe in NewGuinea and the story of its origins may be ofinterest. Or the proceeds from the sales ofa particular product are donated to a cause.People are becoming increasingly sociallyaware, and so it is important to them that whatthey buy in some way contributes to a cause.Sevenly.org is a clothing store that dubsitself as an Organic Funding Movement and“the world’s most effective cause activationplatform leading a generation towardintentional generosity”. Each week theychoose a charity or cause to donate to, anassociated NGO, and set a target amountthey want to donate. A part of the proceedsfrom each sale they make that week arethen set aside for donation. A counter onthe website tells users how far they are fromreaching the target amount.Shoppers are choosy about whothey accept advice fromPeople often turn to their most trusted friendswhen seeking advice on making purchases.They choose who to ask for advice based ontheir knowledge of the friend’s interests, tastes,and choices in other purchases. Decision-making assistance has been a huge pointof focus for e-commerce sites with tools andapps to recommend products. However, theseare based on past purchases, which is bigdrawback when it comes to drawing first-timecustomers. Brand owners are hiring curatorsfor various categories in an attempt to solvethis problem. Curators analyze the vast amountof data- professional, personal details, likes,hobbies and other interests of consumers.AhaLife is a shopping portal that promotesits curators more than the products theysell. Each curator has a dedicated pagecomplete with bios that establish expertisein their respective areas. Users can getproduct details, and also the curator’s viewsand reasons for a product chosen, and whatmakes it stand out. Taking it one step ahead,they are now organizing live meet-ups inmajor cities where consumers can personallymeet curators and designers.Credit: Rob Ellis
  3. 3. Social Technology Quarterly 06ReferencesChu, Julian. “The Ultimate Online ShoppingExperience, Part 1: Strategy and Design.”E-Commerce Times 10 Dec 2008.Gerejo, Lyndon. “Improving The OnlineShopping Experience, Part 1: GettingCustomers To Your Products.” SmashingMagazine.15 Sep 2011.Lynch, Liz. “The Rise of Curated Shopping.”The Relevant Marketer. e-Dialog, 18 Aug2011.“May 2012 Trend Briefing: Retail Revolution.”Trendwatching.com. n.d.08 Sep 2012.Credit: Susan NYCReading about product utility isnot sufficientIf a consumer is investing in technology withthe intention of upgrading from an existingdevice, product utility is not one’s focus.In such a case product specifications aresufficient to make a decision. Conversely inthe category of beauty products no matterhow much one reads about those products,sees them or is persuaded by the womenin branded uniforms, it is not the same asexperiencing those products.Shopping is about taking abreakGoing shopping is a way to relieve stress,the same way that coffee breaks are used.It helps one ease up for a while. Peopleoften drop in nearby stores during a breakto browse, discover brands, and make fewimpulse purchases. The intention is notbuying out of need, but to do an activity thatwould brighten up one’s busy day.To make the experience worthwhile,commerce sites make shopping a “break-like” activity through videos of productdemonstrations and sales pitches. This isbased on the premise that while taking abreak people watch videos, surf the net, orcheck updates on social networking sites.Joyus, a commerce portal that specializes inbeauty products for women, has implementedan entire video-culture. The website is video-led with product demonstrations and make-uphow-to’s. Customers who visit the site whiletaking a coffee break at work can watch videoson new products, brands, and usage tips.

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