Shoppers’ top priorities today involve wanting stress-free experiences and value beyond price. Here, we give a brief overview of how rising and more established online retailers are responding to growing shoppers’ demands.

Specifically, we identify three underlying focus areas that reach across approaches to assortment planning, pricing, promotions, and shopper engagement:

Simplify the selection

  • Narrow assortment range to ease decisions and navigation. Rising startups, including GoPuff and Boxed, specifically key into this curation by featuring a more limited range. Walmart’s Jet.com is also culling its selection to aid shopper navigation.
  • Implement visual search to find items faster. Retailers with huge assortments, including Wayfair, eBay, and Target.com, are elevating mobile features to let shoppers take a picture to connect their wants to available assortments faster. This tool is particularly important when shoppers don’t know the name of the product or brand they want.    
  • Feature straightforward, rounded price points. A growing focus is on communicating value through clear price points. For instance, everything sold on Brandless is USD3. The mattress seller Casper likewise asserts simple price points and a “haggle-free” environment.   

Connect to authenticity

  • Build social interactions directly and between customers. Beauty startup Glossier connects customers with each other to aid recommendations and offer interactions shoppers will seek out. Houzz started out as a home design and remodeling online community group before expanding into a marketplace that sells the items discussed in the group.   
  • Advocate for causes the core audiences want championed. Most rising eCommerce startups take stances to offer profit with a purpose. This ranges from Boxed’s focus on employees and women’s advocacy, to Grove Collaborative’s focus on environmental sustainability.
  • Respond to customer feedback quickly. Many players, including Casper and Brandless, are open about taking shopper suggestions and feedback to change product design, add offer bundles, or revise the website taxonomy.
  • Communicate when and how shoppers want. Walmart.com and Amazon, for instance, offer live chat within certain product pages so that shoppers can talk with a brand expert in real time to answer questions about the item being considered.

Create excitement beyond promotions

  • Explore momentary placement for in-the-moment occasions. Going beyond retail pop-up shops, digitally native startups are also keying into micro-moments, such as this Facebook ad for a Pi Day shirt from Svaha, run in the weeks before March 14 (Figure 1).
  • Connect product purchases and recommendations to services. Wayfair is focusing on connecting orders to the home delivery experience and even product assembly through a partnership with Handy. Boxed has already started offering travel booking services this past summer. As this happens, it will increase the importance of thinking across services when offering shopper suggestions.   
  • Add fun and gamify the experience with augmented or virtual reality. GoPuff developed a virtual reality “snack store” to give the immersion and play of a video game when shopping for chocolate and ice cream. Nike has also started Stash events, where sought-after sneakers are hidden (virtually) in select cities and shoppers must find the right physical location to be able to purchase these specific shoes online, in a manner like collecting characters in Pokemon Go.

Figure 1. Pi Day merchandise shop, now ad, on Facebook.

Source: Facebook, Kantar Consulting

The bottom line for manufacturers

As each of these three elements spread further into mainstream retail, they will push brands to rethink their traditional rules for growth at retail, online, and in store.   

To discuss the direction of digital selling further, join us at Kantar Consulting’s eCommerce and Omnichannel Conference, May 8- 9, 2018, in Boston. 

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