Online shoppers value unique digital experiences

Online shoppers have little tolerance for ineffective or clunky purchasing experiences. Consumers expect reliable sites and easy ordering and fulfilment, in large part because of the elevated transactional experiences digital commerce leaders like Amazon, takealot.com and others have proven possible. Free shipping, shipping tracking and information about returns are the top three capabilities services online shoppers expect brands and retailers to offer.

Online shoppers seek out digital experiences that are on par with what is available from a physical retailer: zero fees for receiving a product, complete knowledge of when their purchase will arrive and access to no-fuss returns.

Now that there is an almost universal expectation for seamless experiences online, brands and retailers must push into experience-driven commerce territory to stand out. An emphasis on experience-driven commerce has not diminished the importance of factors like convenience, selection, search and price to shoppers. Rather, brands and retailers must master these capabilities to even earn shoppers’ consideration, and then go beyond them to differentiate from competitors.

Consumers go where they can receive the most seamless, memorable experience, not just the best price or delivery options. With standards for seamless transactions so high, content represents the key differentiator for brands and retailers to earn business.

Online shoppers may turn to popular marketplaces and retail giants for perks like low prices, but they appreciate how brands and retailers can offer memorable, educational content experiences. Personalised content experiences enable brands and retailers to really shine.

Regardless of where shoppers choose to engage a company, they should be able to trust the accuracy and completeness of the information they find. It’s clear that brands and retailers must approach content marketing with a clear strategy for scaling and delivering experiences that are relevant to shoppers’ personal needs.

Creating standout digital shopping experiences

While there has always been a natural uptick in how often people shop online, consumers’ digital habits have started to stabilise. Digital commerce will reach critical mass in 2019. This is according to Episerver’s “Reimagining Commerce” report, an in-depth look at the trends, tactics and technologies guiding brands and retailers in the age of experience-driven commerce.

In a survey of more than 4 500 global online shoppers, 26% of online consumers currently shop online at least weekly. This is just a small increase from last year’s report, which found that 23% of online consumers shop online at this frequency.

Bluegrass Digital CEO, Nick Durrant, points to the report and says the plateau effect in digital commerce leaves companies with a clear mandate to improve or get left behind. “The quality and diversity of digital commerce experiences play an even greater role in the struggle to stand out and earn customer loyalty.”

“To understand just how valuable innovative online shopping experiences are, consider today’s commerce environment. Leaders like Amazon have perfected seamless transactions, leaving fewer opportunities for differentiation via investments in this area,” he explains.

At the same time, traditional retailers are using technology to improve the customer experience and deliver new perks through sophisticated loyalty programs, bridging the online, in-store gap. The average shopper’s path to purchase is more complex than ever, filled with a wide variety of capabilities and attractions popularised by digital native brands.

Vying for consumers’ attention and wallet share will only grow more difficult as additional players enter the fray, further congesting an already crowded digital shopping ecosystem.

To get ahead, brands and retailers must implement dynamic, integrated content marketing and customer experience strategies that forge personal, emotional connections with shoppers beyond transactions.

Durrant says retailers need to look at the principles to achieve standout, experience-driven commerce that converts consumers into customers and buyers into brand advocates. “According to the survey, final purchases require guidance because only 20% of online consumers say all of their online purchases are pre-planned.”

Although seamless transactional experiences are the standard, online shoppers say the top three capabilities or features brands and retailers should support include free shipping, shipping tracking and information about returns.

“Even though 88% of online shoppers say it is the same or higher priority for brands and retailers to offer personalised experiences online in 2019 compared to 2018, 93% say it is the same or higher priority for companies to respect their anonymity online,” he adds.

It is also evident that digital commerce overwhelms consumers, nearly half of online shoppers have failed to complete a purchase online because there were too many options to choose from. Ten percent of online shoppers view an item five or more times before making an online purchase, adding to feelings of always-on commerce.

The survey also says ineffective content has major consequences: incorrect or incomplete content on a brand’s website or mobile app has stopped 98% of online shoppers from completing a purchase.

Social media has evolved into an established shopping channel, particularly for younger shoppers. Influencers are more important than ever  ̶  52% of online shoppers who use social media have clicked on an influencer’s post, according to the report, and a third of those shoppers (31%) have made a direct purchase from the post.

The report states that 21% of online shoppers aged 37 and under turn to social media for inspiration online when they do not have a product in mind for purchase, compared to just 5% of online shoppers aged 38 and older.

Durrant says according to the report, marketplaces are online shoppers’ top destination. “Online shoppers flock to marketplaces to start their online purchase journeys, whether they have a product in mind for purchase (46%) or not (39%).”

According to the report, voice-assisted shopping is most effective for repeat purchases. Voice is gradually becoming part of online shopping habits; more consumers are turning to voice for online shopping.

“Voice technology has also grown in popularity, 17% of online shoppers use voice devices to make purchases multiple times a month or more frequently, and 22% use the technology for research purposes in the same time frame,” he concludes.

The report, however, shows there is a preference for voice research over voice purchase. Brands and retailers should consider using voice to attract frequent shoppers for repeat purchases, while using traditional channels to build relationships with new customers or less frequent shoppers.

In conclusion, 43% of consumers cited a lack of security features as the number one reason they won’t make more purchases via voice-enabled devices. Difficulty searching for and comparing products were also cited as barriers to increased voice purchases.

About Bluegrass Digital (www.bluegrassdigital.com)

Bluegrass Digital is a leading provider of digital solutions for business. We simplify tech. We help you architect and build digital products and services, ensuring you transform and succeed in a digital world. With over 20 years of engineering experience and proven track record, Bluegrass Digital offers expert knowledge and its unique offering that is centred on service delivery excellence.

Canal Walk Shopping Centre launches social media brand campaign

Since their rise in popularity in the mid-20th century, shopping centres in this day and age tend to reflect the communities they serve; delivering on daily wants and needs, as well as acting as central meeting points for young and old. Understanding the social importance a shopping centre reserves within a community led Canal Walk Shopping Centre to launch its latest brand campaign, #CWSquad, spearheaded by three homegrown, Cape Town-based social media icons.

“Understanding our customer has always been of paramount importance to Canal Walk” explains Camilla Lor, regional marketing executive for Hyprop Investments Limited. “Being relevant to our customer within the societal context in which they live, work and play is key to our overall success, and so we turned to influential content creators within our very community to assist in delivering our brand message.”

Introducing the #CWSquad

The #CWSquad is made up of Nadia Jaftha, Aqeelah Harron Ally and Paula Lakay; three young ladies that will over the next year showcase the best Canal Walk has to offer across over 400 stores. When considering candidates for the campaign, it was important for Canal Walk’s marketing team that each squad member selected was not only already a friend of the brand, but also a greatly admired social media content creator offering their followers relevant and entertaining content.

“During the selection process, we naturally gravitated towards Jaftha, Harron Ally and Lakay because they effortlessly reflect who our customers are,” adds Lor. “From meeting friends for coffee and a catch up, doing a spot of wedding shopping, indulging in a shopping spree or two, grabbing a bite to eat or taking in a movie, Canal Walk has been part of these ladies’ lives every step of the way; as it has for so many of our customers.”

Over the next months, the #CWSquad will share with their followers everything from the season’s hottest lip colour, to where to find the best outfit for that special occasion, and anything and everything in between. “What makes the #CWSquad so impactful is not only are they respected and revered by their followers, but that they are genuine Canal Walk customers,” says Lor. “Customers no longer respond to disruptive, non-consumer centric content; they respond to recommendations from those they trust and admire.”

Meet the #CWSquad

Nadia Jaftha

Jaftha, known as the Content Queen by her fast-growing following, is always out and about creating hilarious pranking videos and relatable content. She has a charismatic, outgoing and vibrant personality, which captures her audiences on Instagram and YouTube.

Follow Nadia: Instagram | YouTube

Aqeelah Harron-Ally

The always elegant yet edgy Harron Ally is on the pulse of modest fashion styling and the latest beauty trends by means of her vlog. Along with her husband, Malick, she loves travelling the world and capturing their adventures. She is a total girl-boss, with a strong vision for her brand, Fashion Breed.

Follow Aqeelah: Instagram | YouTube

Paula Lakay

Most know her as Ms Paula Bee, through Instagram and her blog, but she recently got married to become Mrs Lakay. She is all about embracing and nurturing her gorgeous natural hair, as the Curl Queen, giving her followers beauty tips and tricks and capturing her life through vlogs.

Follow Paula: Instagram | YouTube

Plan of action

Month-by-month, Canal Walk will offer its shoppers a more in-depth look into each #CWSquad member’s life; highlighting their unique style by means of in-centre marketing touchpoints as well as via its direct marketing, and digital and social media platforms.

Canal Walk Shopping Centre is open from 09:00 to 21:00 seven days a week.

Social media and digital information for Canal Walk

Website www.canalwalk.co.za

CWSquad campaign information www.canalwalk.co.za/cwsquad

Facebook www.facebook.com/canalwalk

Instagram www.instagram.com/canalwalk

Twitter www.twitter.com/canal_walk

YouTube www.youtube.com/CanalWalkShopping

Hashtag #CWSquad