Blogger’s Park: New future of retail

November 12, 2021 6:49 AM

Seizing the opportunity in changed consumer shopping behaviour

New browsing experiences and trends that rose through the pandemic have the potential to optimise the customer journey, making it quicker, more efficient, and seamless.New browsing experiences and trends that rose through the pandemic have the potential to optimise the customer journey, making it quicker, more efficient, and seamless.

Iván Markman

Two decades ago, online shopping — a new kind of shopping behaviour then — sprung up when consumers self-quarantined at home during the SARS outbreak. It marked an enduring shift in modern retail. Fast-forward to 2021: With many more Indians shopping online since the pandemic, consumer habits here have changed dramatically and irrevocably.

This year, online festive sales are set to skyrocket, with Forrester predicting $9.2 billion in sales through Diwali, up 42% from 2020. Today’s shopping experiences are all about reimagining the best of brick and mortar in the digital space. With new technologies redefining commerce opportunities, ranging from 3D catalogs to Augmented Reality (AR) try-ons and video ads, here is how brands can seize the moment to serve/ stand out for the new normal consumer.

Age of interactivity

With Indian consumers leaning into the utility and convenience of buying online, retailers will have to recreate the touch and feel of real products and in-person experiences in the virtual world. AR and Virtual Reality (VR) are already helping bridge this gap — shoppers can try on 20 pairs of sunglasses or fit every sofa in a catalogue into their living room with AR on their smartphones. As advertisers push the boundaries on immersive experiences, for consumers, AR provides a new way to interact with ads that merge the physical and digital worlds. A 2021 study by Yahoo, MAGNA and IPG Media Lab found that ‘hard-to-convince’ audiences, including those not in-market for the product, are drawn in by curiosity with interactive ads. The benefits include higher engagement, purchase intent and brand favourability; so, it’s no surprise that interactive ads outperform standard ads.

With 5G arriving in India, the possibilities for immersive interactivity will explode. Shoppers will be able to test drive a car through VR. By building a virtual version of a live physical event, brands can draw consumers from across the country into an experience: think New Year shopping carnivals with fireworks, scavenger hunts for limited edition products or gamified shopping! The virtual sky’s the limit.

Shopping redefined

New browsing experiences and trends that rose through the pandemic have the potential to optimise the customer journey, making it quicker, more efficient, and seamless. Shoppable videos, for instance, allow customers to buy directly from the content or shop the looks they love from their favourite videos, shortening the path to purchase. Contactless buying, similarly, has become a part of today’s retail landscape. By leveraging technology to rethink retail for this new era, marketers can find fresh ways to solve long-standing challenges for consumers — including inefficient buying and checkout experiences.

Shoppers, today, miss the joy and sense of discovery that comes with finding a product that is seemingly made just for them. Technology, however, has helped shape workarounds for smart, personalised shopping — formats like dynamic product ads dynamically pull a creative from a brand’s product feed and serve it based on each user’s unique online shopping behaviour, delivering an intuitive shopping experience that doesn’t compromise creativity.

As India opens, advertisers are looking for new ways to inspire consumers to take action. Next-gen digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising can offer enhanced possibilities to do just that with amplified visibility and impact, engaging and inspiring customers in moments when they are primed to purchase. Importantly, DOOH offers real-time flexibility, so marketers can act with ‘immediacy,’ relying on dynamic displays to adjust their campaigns. This will be an essential ask in a post-pandemic landscape, where mobility rules keep varying and one-size-fits all campaigns just won’t work. With technology intersecting new shopping habits, retailers have innovative approaches to drive engagement, inspire action and build loyalty, as we head towards a new future of retail.

The author is chief business officer, Yahoo

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