Is e-commerce’s next move experiential?

Discussion
Jan 20, 2015

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Unlike traditional online commerce which is focused on transaction-centric elements such as fast site performance, price/availability and ease of navigation, experiential e-commerce seeks to replicate the complete shopping experience consumers are used to facing in a brick-and-mortar store.

According to CoreMedia, a provider of web content management software, experiential e-commerce adds the ability to browse and learn, gain a personalized shopping experience, and find informative, inspirational and entertaining content (interactive tools, how-to-guides, editorial, etc.).

Only 11 percent of retailers currently have an experiential e-commerce strategy in place, according to a survey CoreMedia conducted at last year’s 2014 IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit. However, experiential e-commerce is gaining traction as up to 75 percent of companies are discussing the concept more extensively.

The top factor driving experiential e-commerce adoption is a lack of differentiation from the competition, as reported by 57 percent of retail respondents. Other factors increasing retailers’ interest in experiential e-commerce were low conversion rates (44 percent) and a lack of brand understanding among consumers (43 percent).

Customer loyalty was seen as the top benefit gained from embracing experiential e-commerce, cited by 68 percent of respondents; followed by revenue (66 percent); customer satisfaction (63 percent); engagement (62 percent); and brand awareness (58 percent).

However, the survey found five obstacles make the implementation of an experiential e-commerce strategy more difficult:

  • Providing a relevant experience across all channels (58 percent);
  • Personalizing the user experience based on context (58 percent);
  • Integrating with marketing systems, campaigns and content (58 percent);
  • Lacking experimental commerce expertise (48 percent); and
  • Integrating rich media into their commerce platform (48 percent).

To ensure marketing and e-commerce alignment, CoreMedia recommended that retailers map out the buyer’s journey across all touch points and identify "moments of truth" in which content and offers can guarantee a positive action from consumers.

Additionally, CoreMedia suggested that retailers review the technology they have in place so they are not using inadequate experiential tools. On top of that, businesses must ensure that team members can easily use these tools to reduce dependence on IT or external resources. Retailers can build up technology skills by offering cross-training or by partnering with system integrators or digital agencies that have experience working with e-commerce and content management solutions.

What do you think of experiential e-commerce’s potential to transform the online experience? Can e-commerce sites match the storytelling, personalization and other elements more common to brick & mortar retail?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

22 Comments on "Is e-commerce’s next move experiential?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ryan Mathews
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

First let me say that it’s so amazing how many times “moments of truth” can be a new idea.

E-commerce sites have the potential to out “story-tell” brick-and-mortar retailers by use of game strategy, interactive video and audio, etc. That said, far from even being a toddler, this whole approach to experiential marketing is still in digital utero.

The online experience will have to morph because the lines separating “reality” from entertainment are starting to blur and static transactional sites might work today but there is no guarantee they will continue to attract shoppers tomorrow.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
7 years 3 months ago

I don’t think this is anything new. Way back in the frontier days of online, retailers were focused on “recreating the store experience online.” But honestly, I hope we’ve evolved beyond that. Online has distinct advantages (and disadvantages) relative to stores. An online-only experience needs to embrace the advantages and either minimize or find ways to shore up disadvantages. And while an online-only experience may be one customer path to purchase, online plays a significant role in other paths to purchase as well and needs to be thought of in that context too.

So whatever you call it, it’s about enabling a good customer experience that supports all of the touch points along a path to purchase. e-commerce absolutely has something to offer to all of these touch points. But don’t think about it as recreating the store experience. Just think about it as creating a great customer experience, period.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

I don’t think e-commerce customers are going for storytelling, personalization and other elements more common to brick-and-mortar. The value of online is exactly the opposite. It is convenience, price, ease of use, lack of complications and distractions. It is about access and efficiency. If it is made too complex, it will lose customers.

Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

E-commerce can only reach two out of five of our senses to create an experience, but sight and sound are the two senses we as humans use the most.

If the consumer experience largely involves seeing how something works, then experiential tools focused on visualization can be highly effective, especially videos. Anything involving touch, taste or smell and stores wins hands down.

E-commerce has been using “rich content” for a long time with only modest success. CoreMedia has identified a critical process of “mapping out the buyer’s journey across all touch points and identify moments of truth.”

There are two critical success factors for experiential touch points: 1. Can the experiential tools enhance the ability to tell a story from the eyes of the consumer? 2. Do the experiential tools enable personalization in the context of how the consumers will use the products in their lifestyle?

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

The race is on! Brick-and-mortar retailers have the advantage of leveraging ALL the senses to create immersive, experiential environments. The human senses connect with us emotionally and it is this emotional bond that brands and retailers need to build with their shoppers. It’s ironic that e-commerce seems to be responding to this requirement more aggressively than retailers! Retailers definitely have an advantage given their physical space to design and leverage for all the human senses. Creating mobile apps is not going to work! Creating immersive environments that combine ALL the human senses with enabling technologies, along with a big dose of customer service, will win the day.

Anne Howe
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

I believe all the obstacles are worth overcoming because the experience that pleases the shopper emotionally and contextually will produce more sustained sales and affinity (what we call “loyalty,” said in a more truthful manner).

Mark Heckman
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Customer Journey Mapping is morphing into a useful approach for those retailers that are just beginning to engage into e-commerce. Simply put: Without knowing how, when and where your shoppers are making contact with your business, any e-commerce efforts will end up frustrating the shopper and diminishing results.

If systems and software are in place to collect information on a customer across touch points, strategies to reach the customer and create synergy between their website, social media, mobile messaging and store visits are possible. At that point “experimentation” can take place and depending upon the retail channel, relevant storytelling and personalization can consistently be applied to every touch point the customer has.

As intuitive as this sounds, many retailers appear to be struggling with that process, while other are ignoring the importance of having one view of the shopper across channels all together. In my view, it is table stakes for success!

Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
7 years 3 months ago

The chief advantage that online e-commerce has over brick-and-mortar retail is the near-total control by the consumer on their discovery and buying journey. Consumers create their own story using the building blocks available in any sequence they like and can re-arrange the story on the fly. The key is for the retailer/e-commerce site to provide the experiential ingredients that are in line with the brand image in meaningful ways on the e-commerce site.

While the horizon appears limitless in the online world, it becomes truly so when you allow the story—the experience—to be orchestrated by the consumer so that it flows naturally between the digital and the physical.

Tom Redd
Guest
7 years 3 months ago
Keep pushin it—but it will never get there. A keyboard cannot replace a face-to-face chat with an experienced store associates. E-commerce has a place but it is not to replace a location where you can talk with and humanly communicate with another person about an area you are interested in, a problem you are facing and need help with, etc. The other issue on the experiential stuff is: Why? Why would a shopper want to sit in front of a computer or mobile device and get a Skype chat going with an associate and then buy when they could just go to a store, talk, learn and experience other people and still buy? People already are spending too much time in front of computers, mobile devices, TVs and more. It impacts one’s ability to communicate and experience life. Now if you are one that is pro-web for 100 percent of retail, just tell me how you are going to handle a plumbing leak under one of you sinks with a pipe collar that is stripped… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Brick-and-mortar footfalls and sales are falling. E-commerce sales are up. Why should e-commerce want to mimic brick-and-mortar? Storytelling is what a brand does. That core story should be the same throughout all consumer touch points.

Retailers should master the basics—omni-channel, ease of use, time-saving and value—regardless of physical or virtual location. Why worry about making a website mirror a store?

Zel Bianco
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

I think adding more content to some sites could be a great idea, particularly for higher-ticket items that people might hesitate to buy online. Having an idea of how that huge TV will look in your living room or 10 different ways to style an expensive handbag would help convert hesitant shoppers. However, I think e-commerce needs to be careful not to clutter sites and overwhelm shoppers. Just like how no one likes the sales clerk who hovers over your shoulder and tells you their opinion on everything you look at, no one wants to be bombarded with opinions and articles when they know what they are looking for online.

I also agree with what Nikki said, online and in-store both have to stop trying to replicate each other. Should there be unity across a brand—absolutely. But retailers will always be best served by embracing the benefits of each experience.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
7 years 3 months ago
E-commerce is more commonly viewed as a never-ending expense and much more like the help by many of the owners and investors. Any and all expenditures are limited by quarterly or even monthly sales results. This same shackling process leaves many abandoned starts and less-than-complete projects to be viewed as a waste of money at the top. Companies with the investment capital in place are often scared off of new hardware and software investments for fear of being stuck with vaporware. This all really points to retail’s inability to attract, train and maintain the necessary talent needed to excel in business. We all know it takes money to make money and that if you spend less you will get less and sometimes less than you need to have profitable investments. Without understanding the total cost of commitments very costly mistakes are made, as we see with all of the lost or stolen consumer identity information. Refusal to use 21st century retail methods will almost certainly stunt growth for a retailer, maybe to the extent of… Read more »
Scott Andrews
Guest
Scott Andrews
7 years 3 months ago

I suggest all five obstacles can be overcome through combining in-store and online together by:

  1. Helping the shopper control the retail experience across their digital lifestyle from their chosen digital ecosystem, therefore letting the shopper procure and invest in technology.
  2. Removing the silos of multiple websites and annoying push ads on the web, social networks and in stores before they enter a store.
  3. Letting them pull and save entertaining, educational and insightful information from contextual interactive experiences in stores and on the web, thereby pulling the retailer into their mobile shopping path.

The retailer will then see the entire purchase journey in a whole new way and avoid worn-out online and in-store metrics and KPIs.

Overcoming the obstacles and answering “why” shoppers should choose a particular retailer and product happens through experiential digital marketing, social interaction and e-commerce together.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
7 years 3 months ago

E-commerce sites run the risk of being commoditized, since consumers can easily check products, pricing and features across sites. By offering customization as well as entertainment and education, e-commerce retailers can create stickiness, loyalty and retention.

A good solid strategy, albeit one that Amazon has been employing for some time, offering a customized site experience as well as video-on-demand through Prime.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

First, the statement that current online sites are basically the same is not true. Not all sites work well, consumers abandon sites and carts when things do not work well, and that frustration carries over to brick-and-mortar stores. Storytelling and personalization are not the only type of experiences that create customer satisfaction. Online sites have the ability to create unique experiences rather than to try to copy in-store experiences. However, most important is that whatever is created must work. For example, this weekend I was on the Macy’s websites and a box popped up (without my initiation) asking me if I wanted to chat with someone. I clicked on yes and was told that chat was unavailable and I should check back later. Why ask if the service was unavailable? That was not a helpful experience.

Lee Kent
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

It’s all about experience, whether online or in-store, now isn’t it? Even if the experience that the consumer desires is simply one, two, three, done!

It would behoove every retailer to understand the journeys their customers desire and create them. Digital offers many opportunities to do just that, even though it’s a little tougher than in-store for certain emotional purchases etc.

The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a perfect customer. Meaning that retail can not define a perfect customer, create an experience for them and expect it to work.

Yes, consumers may share some aspects of their shopping journeys and it is up to retail to group these common habits prior to creating the experiences that will keep them moving toward the desired goal: A purchase!

Every single step of the way is to be experienced and every experience is judged by the consumer.

And that’s my two cents.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

This is absolutely spot-on with what I am seeing in the marketplace among the most innovative online merchants globally. I had numerous retailer and CPG brand conversations at NRF regarding the need for more shopping experience differentiation, as we craft the consumer journey throughout the shopping process. Storytelling and personalization are some of the key aspects to building this journey map. I am excited to see this finally gaining some steam.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Creating an experiencing for a retail customer online doesn’t mimic brick & mortar. As others have said here already, online has its advantages over brick and mortar and customers already realize this and exploit it to their benefit. Whatever experience is designed for the online shopper needs to accept and leverage this.

I think it’s good, but we need to think outside of just providing brick & mortar mimicry. What will happen due to evolution of both brick and mortar and online is a new experience for both that plays on the strength of each other. After all, we need to have consistency in the brand.

Lee Peterson
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Just saw an interview with Les Wexner, who said he was “not worried” about online commerce infringing on his business. He pointed out that customers expect an “emotional experience,” like the smell of fragrance, more than just purchasing a commodity, especially from stores. I agree with that and believe that if/when physical retail starts to push back with more experiential stores, we’ll have two separate ways to shop—not two competing versions of retail.

Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
7 years 3 months ago
The answer is yes and whatever. UX has advanced so much over the past few years that while you may be drooling over the possibilities of carousels, image rotators, etc., designers are already shouting from the rooftops that it’s an outdated design pattern. Experiences are getting better for some of the following reasons: Evolving design approaches like Responsive Web Design. New platforms (retinal) that deliver amazing visual experiences. Adoption and love for new patterns like infinite scroll or swipe left and right. The UX is now more than users at keyboards clicking through menus. It’s a William Gibson moment: “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” To emphasize the pace of things, I heard a local (Palo Alto) start-up describe their platform, deployed at a few Fortune 50 brands, that does the following: It starts by scanning all the frames in your, let’s say, 1:30 sec HD video Finds unique video identity elements, and then Enables a customized video experience optimized on behavioral cue-points (derived from the user profile in real time) that… Read more »
Ed Dunn
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Is this supposed to be the response to click-and-collect? To me this is really a “desktop desperation” act of trying to shore up desktop e-commerce shoppers while the population shifts to mobile devices and click-and-collect.

If an e-commerce outfit want to provide “experience,” maybe they want to open a pop-up shop.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
7 years 3 months ago

I think Nikki and Zel nailed this question with their answers.

Viva la difference (between online and in-store)!

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Which of the obstacles listed in CoreMedia’s study will be toughest to overcome in implementing experiential e-commerce?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...