Marketers are watching — often without much influence — as commerce changes before their eyes. Beyond the obvious supply chain challenges, consumers are forcing brands and retailers to rethink the way their customers are enabled to shop, whether that be through contactless solutions like pickup and delivery, or via a hygienically modified version of the legacy in-store experience.
In response, budget-holding decision makers across the advertising spectrum are retooling to meet these changing consumer demands, and left in the wake of their transformation are many of the investment strategies once leaned upon under “normal” circumstances. In the near future it’s likely we won’t see many in-store sampling events or frequently rotating end cap displays (as they’re often filled with essential — and frequently out-of-stock — items), and action alley may be embraced for its enablement of social distancing instead of its ability to feature items along consumers’ most frequented path.
The speed at which brands and retailers are able to transform digital experiences to (at least remotely) resemble the comfortable experience of browsing vast aisles of inventory and selecting various items to complete a solution will be crucial. While there are notable conveniences of online shopping — namely the fact it’s clothing optional — it still creates anxiety for shoppers who lack confidence in their choices, fear forgetting a key item and relinquish the luxury of comparing competitive items’ price and packaging by simply seeing them side-by-side on the shelf.
Physically shopping for items like food, beauty products and other household goods may have seemed mundane before, but this new lifestyle has taught us just how visceral even the most ordinary experiences can be.
Anticipating some permanence to these new patterns, how do stakeholders begin to replicate the in-store experience to meet the demands of migrating consumers? Here are a few ideas.
Sell a Solution, Not Just a Product
Consumers are perpetually looking for guidance — from brands, from retailers and, most importantly, from other consumers. And often they’re seeking guidance in the form of actual solutions, not just individual products. They’re rarely hoping to hear about “the best tomato paste,” but they’re often looking for the best homemade pizza recipe (for which tomato paste might be the base for the sauce). They’re not often simply looking for someone’s “favorite moisturizer,” and instead are looking for the best skin care routine that combines multiple, complimentary items into a complete regimen.
Digital solutions exist that allow consumers to add full solutions to their favorite retailer’s shopping cart with a single click. These functions can turn any recipe, regimen or project blueprint into a singular, buyable solution and, when partnering with the right providers, can even communicate inventory availability with the customer in real-time.
Thinking of your product within its actual use cases and not as a standalone item can open a wealth of opportunities. The results not only put your item in the cart, but also increase your retailers’ basket size and give the customer a convenient, time- and energy-saving solution — a scenario where everyone wins.
Counsel Consumers’ Decisions with Virtual Store Associates
Retail associates, especially in certain categories, often serve as a helpful selling tool for their employer and its suppliers. They become product experts and share their wealth of knowledge with curious shoppers, especially regarding new items that require education. In online shopping scenarios and while shoppers are spending as little time in stores as possible, brands need to replace these opportunities with supplemental services easily accessed prior to the purchase of their items.
Many advertisers will turn to chatbots as they attempt to guide their customers through complex decisions. Bots, as many know, have evolved from earlier, customer service-focused iterations, and have become a useful communication channel that connect brands with shoppers at all stages of their purchase journey. In a recent campaign for a technology brand releasing a new, sleep-focused audio device, we leveraged our Conversational Commerce engine to dynamically respond to opted-in users’ requests for additional product information, curate relevant content based on their unique sleep challenges, and even facilitate the ability for them to complete a purchase within the messaging window.
We anticipate these types of interactions will become more prevalent, and encourage brands to consider the possibilities presented by one-to-one conversations with customers during critical moments in their decision making process.
Reinvent the Product Sampling Experience
Many marketers can be regularly overheard saying, “if I could just get my product in a customer’s hands, they would never buy another brand again.” That level of confidence in their product habitually leads them towards trial-driving activities, such as in-store sampling, experiential marketing and events, in which they give away free product (sometimes accompanied by an offer) to shoppers and bystanders willing to give it a try. People, coincidentally, also enjoy receiving something for nothing — nearly three in four consumers (73 percent) said a sample would persuade them to buy a new product — so the marriage makes sense.
These experiences can be recreated outside of these brick-and-mortar and event-related scenarios, and the actual sample can be consumed or used in consumers’ own homes. Through a variety of communication channels and sophisticated targeting techniques, brands can acquire opt-ins from intrigued prospects and send them thoughtful packages in the mail. These sample boxes can also include additional promotional items and easily redeemable offers, should the recipient decide to become a paying customer in their next trip to the store or online shopping adventure.
It’s important for brands using these tactics to focus on the efficiency of their outreach efforts and effectiveness of their remarketing techniques. Work with providers who focus on the end-to-end user experience (vs. fulfillment alone) — prescribing the appropriate targeting strategy and ideal channels for communicating the opportunity to consumers, and placing necessary emphasis on subsequently reengaging sample recipients.
Navigating this new world will be difficult, and marketers will be forced to adjust their traditional thinking and meet demand in different ways. Tangible experiences will never be fully replaced — as people are freed from isolation and many resume shopping in similar ways they did pre-pandemic. This period has, however, accelerated the migration to and adoption of digital shopping for everyday items. Marketers who facilitate more intuitive interactions in online environments are geared to win long-term.
To learn more about these solutions and others, visit inmar.com.