Gen Z and Millennials are shopping online more than ever before—and they want it to be an experience…
The way young consumers shop during the COVID era has changed significantly, and they’re creating the future of shopping as we speak. Our Retail’s New Reality report found that 82% of 13-39-year-olds who have online shopped during COVID have been shopping online more than they had in the past. Even as lockdowns slowly start to ease, young shoppers aren’t exactly eager to go into stores right away: 65% agree “Until there is a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, I will do most of my shopping online.”
However, 74% of 13-39-year-olds say they miss shopping in-stores—they miss the experience of shopping, and they want some of the engagement that they used to get in-store to move online. In fact, 76% of 13-39-year-olds tell us that shopping should be an experience. And brands are racing to meet their expectations: From integrating shopping into social media from making “shoppable” TV, there’s numerous ways brands have been testing how to make the online shopping experience mimic the experience of shopping in-person. Tech startups are also bringing new ecommerce features to life: Squadded want to “digitize” going to the mall with friends with digital group shopping, while Mada wants to be the “Tinder of shopping.” But that’s just the start of the experiencification of online shopping. Here are four major trends bringing the engagement of in-store retail into ecommerce:
Remote Personal Shopping
Our Retail’s New Reality survey found that 52% of 13-39-year-olds who have shopped online during the COVID-19 crisis say that online shopping has been difficult since the crisis started. Shopify is ramping up their tools to provide a more seamless “immersive shopping experience” with an easier way for shoppers to interact with employees when they need assistance with making a purchase. The ecommerce company is integrating Hero technology into their platform to include features that mimic an “in-store experience,” like a video chat component that will let shoppers talk to store employees. With the new tool, employees are able to answer customers’ questions about products, give tips, check inventory levels, and communicate via text messages with personalized recommendations and links to buy items online. Hero is just one of the companies making remote or digital personal shopping a reality. In March (right before quarantines) Vogue Business reported that services like Curated and Threads are using “[o]nline chats, text messages, videos and phone calls help recreate the intimacy of in-person shopping.”
Video, Video, Video (and Influencers)
Gen Z is a video-first generation, and attracted to platforms that are short-video centric. So it only makes sense to integrate short video content—and social video—into their digital shopping experience. While many e-tailers have video to show off products, there are few ecommerce platforms that are centered around video—but that’s changing. Google is launching Shoploop, a video shopping platform that will let shoppers discover, evaluate, and buy products in one spot. Videos will be shorter than 90 seconds and feature reviews from people who are knowledgeable about the items. It’s described as a “modern telemarketing channel” that offers opportunities for brands to promote their products in a different environment while adding an “entertainment factor” to the shopping experience. Meanwhile, Poshmark is adding a new Posh Stories tool—a feature that will allow their 60 million registered users to create and share short, shoppable videos and photos of the items in their online closet. They report that $175 million worth of inventory is uploaded to the platform weekly, and “relationships and communications are critical” to sales. According to Poshmark’s CEO, they launched Stories during COVID to allow people to “connect at a deeper and more intimate level, bringing the listings to life.”
Digital Dressing Rooms & Virtual Fitting Rooms
YPulse found that 69% of 13-39-year-olds aren’t comfortable trying on clothes in-store now and won’t be comfortable for months after stay-at-home orders are lifted so to let young shoppers try-on clothes from the comfort of their own home, a few brands have added technology to allow just that. ASOS already tried it when they debuted an augmented reality tool to let shoppers see simulated views of models wearing the site’s clothing and accessories, while Ulta Beauty’s GlamLab virtual try-on feature saw an increase during the pandemic. When jewelry brand Kendra Scott had to shut down its physical locations in March, they prioritized how to “recreate the experience on its ecommerce site.” They launched a virtual try-on the following month for customers who wanted to “visualize” the size, shape, and movement of their earrings using AR. Since then, they have seen a “significant uptick” in engagement across the board. Recently, clothing rental company Armoire is launching “Looks,” a digital dressing room where members can upload their favorite rented looks into a “curated feed,” and talk about the fit and style in the comments. The new feature is designed to “digitally recreate” trying on new clothes. The brand said that it came up with the inspiration from its Facebook community, where users would share and talk about their favorite outfits. Meanwhile, Sweet Fit has incorporated AR into their interactive virtual fitting mirrors by adding MySize technology to give consumers “very precise” size recommendations for clothes they want to try on. The AR technology scans a person’s body and shows them a virtual outfit. It’s currently only available in France, but the company has plans to expand the service abroad. Young shoppers can use the “MySizeID integration” to choose the correct size for a specific clothing brand based on real-time body measurements.
YPulse found that 73% buy mostly from online marketplaces like Amazon, and the ecommerce giant has been adding features to make shopping for their customers more interactive. With the launch of Amazon’s new livestreaming feature for influencers, it’s being touted as the “modern-day version of QVC.” As live content continues to thrive during the pandemic, the ecommerce giant is adding livestreaming to its existing Amazon Influencer Program, which lets influencers earn money by directing fans to their favorite Amazon products via posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. The new Amazon Live tool will stream fashion, beauty, cooking, and fitness influencers directly on Amazon’s shopping site, as a carousel guides consumers to purchase the items featured in the video. As influencers grow their fan base, they’ll be able to rise through levels like “Rising Star,” “Insider,” or “A-List.” Mirror & Thread, Beauty by Carla, The Deal Guy, and BrickinNick are some of the first influencers to beta test the feature. Meanwhile, luxury brands are tapping into the market as well. Luxury e-trailer Moda Operandi, known for hosting intimate designer trunk shows and in-person private showroom visits, was forced to pause their events due to COVID, and they’ve instead pivoted to reaching consumers online. The brand debuted Moda Live, a new “video shopping” feature with half hour livestreams hosted by designers, like Johanna Ortiz, who will be showing off their latest clothing lines and collections. Viewers will be able to purchase products on screen, and similar to Instagram Live, they can interact and leave comments on the livestream. Previously, young consumers in China entertained themselves by livestream shopping. Chinese ecommerce sites JD.com and Alibaba both partnered with the live streaming platform Kuaishou to host events to connect brands and customers. For example, Alibaba hosted a livestream event and brought in farmers on its “Foodie Livestream” channel to sell produce that was going bad, resulting in the sale of 33 million pounds of mangoes and melons in just three days. Efforts like these are making “short video livestreaming in ecommerce” a growing trend—and while it hasn’t yet come to the U.S., it is certainly one to watch post-pandemic.