In recent years, the fast growth of e-commerce has been nothing short of spectacular. With the global pandemic pushing more people towards online shopping, e-commerce businesses are thriving. According to a report by IBM the pandemic accelerated the shift to e-commerce by approximately 5 years. However, despite the convenience of shopping from the comfort of one's home, there's still something to be said for the tactile and immersive experience of shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store. To create an unforgettable online shopping journey, retailers need to find innovative ways to bring elements of the in-store experience to the digital world. In this blog we’re wanting to get you thinking about your e-commerce store. Which strategies that we cover here are you not implementing, and what’s stopping you?
Human Connection and Personalization
One of the main challenges e-commerce businesses face is creating a sense of human connection and personalization. In physical stores, customers can interact with knowledgeable staff who offer tailored product recommendations and assistance. Online, this can be replicated through several strategies:
Online Chat and Video Consultations: Implementing live chat support or video consultations allows customers to connect with staff members in real-time, enabling personalized assistance. ASOS, a global fashion retailer, offers video consultations with stylists to help customers find the perfect outfit. Do you have online chat or video consultations in your e-commerce store? Small business owners used to consider these options to be too costly or technically challenging to implement but with the advent of AI tools and tech, functionality like online chat is now very achievable for smaller retailers.
Personalized Product Recommendations: Data-driven personalization can help replicate the customized advice offered in-store. Amazon excels in this area, using customer browsing and purchase history to recommend relevant products. And before you start thinking we don’t have budget for that, bear in mind smaller e-commerce stores can still offer personalized product recommendations without the massive budgets of giants like Amazon.
There are various cost-effective tools and functionalities available, especially for popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify, that can help smaller retailers provide tailored suggestions to their customers.
Shopify Apps: Shopify has a wide range of apps that enable personalized product recommendations for smaller retailers. Some popular and affordable options include Personalized Recommendations by LimeSpot, Wiser Personalized Recommendations, and Smart Search & Instant Search by Searchanise. These apps use algorithms to analyze customer behavior and preferences, then suggest products accordingly.
Segmented Email Marketing: Smaller retailers can leverage their email marketing campaigns to offer personalized recommendations. By segmenting your email lists based on customer behavior, demographics, or preferences, retailers can send tailored product suggestions to specific customer groups. A great application that we use for this kind of segmented email marketing is Klaviyo which integrates perfectly with Shopify.
Social Media Retargeting: Retailers can take advantage of social media advertising platforms like Facebook and Instagram to deliver personalized product recommendations. By using retargeting campaigns, retailers can show ads featuring products that customers have previously viewed or interacted with on their website. If this is something you aren’t currently doing we highly recommend it, these are warm leads we definitely recommend encouraging these potential customers to revisit the site and complete their purchase.
Collaborative Filtering: Smaller retailers can implement collaborative filtering, a technique used to generate recommendations based on the behavior of similar users. For example, if Customer A and Customer B both showed interest in the same products, and Customer A made a purchase, the system would recommend the purchased item to Customer B. Although implementing collaborative filtering might require some technical knowledge, there are libraries and tutorials available online to guide you through the process.
Using Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can provide insights into customer behavior and preferences. Smaller retailers can use this data to manually curate personalized product recommendations for their customers. For instance, by identifying the most popular products in specific categories or analyzing the typical browsing patterns of customers, retailers can make informed decisions about which products to recommend.
User-generated Content and Reviews: Reviews and testimonials can help replicate the sense of community found in brick-and-mortar stores. For example, Sephora's online platform features user reviews, photos, and Q&A sections, giving customers valuable insights into product performance. Retailers can encourage customers to share their experiences, photos, and videos, fostering a sense of community and helping potential buyers make informed decisions.
Immersive Product Visualization
In-store shopping allows customers to see, touch, and try on products before purchasing. Online, retailers must find ways to create an immersive experience that replicates this tactile element:
Virtual Try-Ons and Augmented Reality: Many fashion and beauty brands are now offering virtual try-on experiences. For example, Warby Parker's app uses augmented reality (AR) technology to let users virtually try on glasses.
360-Degree Product Views and Videos: High-quality product images and videos can help customers get a better understanding of an item. Some retailers already offer 360-degree product views, allowing customers to explore products from all angles. This can be expanded to include video demonstrations and tutorials, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the product and its features.
Interactive 3D Product Models: IKEA's app uses AR technology to let users place furniture in their homes, providing a sense of scale and fit.
Adidas has collaborated with Snapchat to create an AR-powered shopping experience. Users can virtually try on shoes through the Snapchat app, allowing them to see how the shoes look on their feet before making a purchase.
Again 3D and Augmented Reality options are no longer only the domain of big brands. For smaller retailers looking to incorporate virtual try-ons and AR experiences on a limited budget, there are several tools and platforms available:
Shopify Apps: Shopify offers a range of AR and 3D apps that can be integrated into your e-commerce store. Some options include Spase, which helps create 3D and AR experiences for products, and ARsenal, which provides tools for creating AR-powered product visuals. These apps typically offer tiered pricing or pay-as-you-go models, making them more accessible to smaller retailers.
Web-Based AR Solutions: Web-based AR solutions, such as 8th Wall or Torch, allow retailers to create AR experiences without requiring customers to download a separate app. These solutions often have pricing plans designed to accommodate various business sizes and budgets.
DIY AR Solutions: For smaller retailers with some technical expertise, open-source AR libraries, such as AR.js or A-Frame, can be used to create custom AR experiences. Although this approach may require more time and effort, it can be a cost-effective way to incorporate AR into your e-commerce platform if you have the relevant technical abilities in house.
Incorporating elements of the in-store shopping experience into the digital realm is essential for e-commerce retailers to stand out in an increasingly competitive market. Hopefully as we’ve demonstrated here many of these options are also highly accessible for smaller ecommerce retailers as well as larger ones. We’re going to continue to part 2 of this blog in a couple of weeks time so if you’re finding this information useful look out for the next chapter. In the meantime if you’d like to continue looking at ways to increase the user experience online check out our Road to Retail fast growth ecommerce course, Mastering the Online Shopper Experience.