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How social commerce and new technologies are changing the way we shop

New technological platforms and changing consumer attitudes are fundamentally changing the way we shop. Trends like social commerce and direct shopping are on the rise, and brick-and-mortar stores are experiencing a boom fueled by cubicle fever. The challenge for retailers is to find their place in this ever-expanding ecosystem while delivering the customer experience shoppers demand.

Recent Fast business Innovation Festival, Global Payment and Shopping Service Klarna hosted a virtual panel titled “The Retail Revolution”. Sarah Kleinman, Global Vice President of Digital Experience at The North Face, and Darren MacDonald, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Petco, joined Klarna CEO and Co-Founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski to discuss current trends in the industry. retail and what sellers need to do to stay ahead of the curve. Here are five takeaways from their conversation.

1. China is at the forefront of retail trends.

Siemiatkowski suggests looking at the current state of Chinese retail to see where the rest of the world is heading. “They are 10 years ahead of us,” he says. Specifically, Siemiatkowski expects retail across the world to follow China’s lead in using live streaming by brands, retailers and professional promoters to engage with customers. For example, he cites the alternative milk brand Oatley, which broadcasts a popular livestream in China. “The only thing you can buy are different numbers of Oatley boxes,” says Siemiatkowski. “And they’re live 24/7.”

2. Digital strategies must add value to customers.

Social commerce and e-commerce are opening up exciting new channels through which brands can engage their customers, but brands shouldn’t be using them just because they’re there. “[Using] streaming or augmented reality for the sake of technology doesn’t add value to your consumers, ”Kleinman says. For example, her business has used digital channels to help customers enjoy the outdoors with tutorials on pitching tents or supplies for a rainy trek. Because the content aligns with the brand, she says, it effectively promotes The North Face without the burden of a direct selling element. This allows you to stay focused on customer value.

With a little planning, a livestream can become an event in itself. “We were doing [a Facebook Live event] earlier this year called The Perfect Fit, ”MacDonald said. “We featured a bunch of dog pet fashions… that pet parents really love. It was also an opportunity to highlight refuge animals. The result? More awareness for Petco’s pet fashions and the adoptions of the Seven Shelter Animals.

3. The in-store experience will go digital …

After social distancing from the pandemic slows in-person shopping, consumers are eager to return to physical stores. But nowadays, they’re also used to the convenience of e-commerce experiences like one-click shopping or personalized recommendations. Translating this into physical retail will require continuous evolution for retailers. “As a consumer, [you’re] expect the agent in the store to recognize who you are, to know what you have bought, ”Siemiatkowski explains. “I don’t think anyone is confused about the experience we would like to have. It’s just a matter of how fast can we get there.

MacDonald believes change will be imperative in retail. “I think all retailers are going to go through some level of transformation with brick and mortar,” he says. “The question is really the degree of change.” He sees fashion retailers, for example, following Bonobos’ lead: maintaining a small store where customers can try on clothes, but relying on e-commerce to process the transaction and ship the products.

4.… and e-commerce will be more like physical purchases.

While digital channels allow a high level of data-driven personalization and convenience, they often don’t give consumers access to specific expertise in real time. Creating e-commerce experiences that replicate this advantage of in-store shopping will help retailers differentiate themselves in the omnichannel age.

One way to do this is to use digital channels to connect customers to living humans. “We’ve gone so far as to use social media to better connect even digital consumers with experts and associates in stores,” Kleinman says. This not only adds real-time expertise to the digital experience, but also a part of that long-awaited human interaction.

5. Data can drive better experiences.

We often read articles about a business’s mismanagement of customer data, whether it’s due to inadequate data security or targeted content that seems manipulative. But while consumers are certainly concerned about how their data is being used, Siemiatkowski believes that this trend doesn’t amount to a total rejection of data-driven targeting and personalization.

“I think people are a little tired of being chased by bad personalization,” Siemiatkowski says. “Like, ‘I clicked on that ad… and now I’m chased by a retargeting service for the rest of my life.’ “If the process is transparent, secure and consensual, Siemiatkowski predicts that customers will be ready to allow businesses to use data in ways that enhance their experience.

“I think consumers are really ready to identify with a brand, to build lasting relationships,” Kleinman says. “And as long as this return of value makes sense to them, they’re ready to participate. And they are ready to participate through the channels.


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