We live in a customer-centric world where instant satisfaction of customer needs can determine the success or failure of a business. Building an innovative and winning Customer Experience (CX) strategy is crucial to differentiating one brand from another. Everyone wants to create that secret sauce that helps them stand out in the crowd and capture customers’ attention and hearts. Brands that successfully crack the innovation code can build customer loyalty, accelerate sales, and pave the way to long-term profitability.
The retail industry is highly competitive, where innovation is intimately tied to customer acquisition and retention. Valued at USD 670-690 billion in 2021, retail is the largest industry in India, surpassing even oil and gas. Yet, over several decades, top retailers like Aditya Birla Retail, Raymond, and Health & Glow, among others, continue to stay relevant to their customers through innovative CX strategies. These brands have survived for decades because they understand that they’re not just selling products, they’re selling ideas and experiences. This deep-rooted personalized appeal continually drives sales and customer loyalty.
Experiential commerce is here to stay. But before we go any further, let’s look at what got us to this point. From the beginning of retail, experiential commerce has played a vital role in the evolution of the industry. In India, the great retail revolution took place in the 1990s, with the establishment of department stores that catered to all shoppers’ needs under one roof. They were the coolest places to shop back then. Then came Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle, which disrupted the Indian fashion retail scene, providing customers with richer and more exclusive shopping experiences. Thirty years later, these brands are still reaping the rewards of their differentiating customer experience strategies.
In the mid-2000s, competition intensified and the industry began to flourish. Experience Commerce has had a facelift with more sophisticated stores offering a range of specialty categories like eyewear, jewelry, fashion, electronics, groceries and more. The choice of brands available on the floor increased and shoppers were encouraged to touch, smell and experience the products.
Then came the technological revolution and e-commerce began to flourish, ushering in a new era of experience commerce. Starting around 2013, e-commerce quickly picked up and retailers began to focus on creating better online shopping experiences for desktop and mobile users. Product discovery, nudges, hyper-personalization, smart discounts, and convenient and safe shopping experiences have all become part of the shopping experience.
Soon, the industry coalesced into a hybrid format, where brick-and-mortar retailers offered both online and offline shopping options, and major e-commerce players offered “try and buy” tactics to offset the loss. physical experience they did not offer.
Today, experiential e-commerce has taken advantage of technological advancements to reach a mature stage. Retailers offer a cocktail of physical and digital retail, delivering an immersive, intuitive and interactive customer experience like never before.
Let’s get a little more specific with these six examples of innovation that are redefining experiential e-commerce:
- Augmented Reality (AR)
In retail, AR offers shoppers a new and exciting digital experience and brands an innovative way to enrich customer relationships. Online or offline shoppers can use AR from personal computers, mobile devices, or kiosks in stores. Brands ranging from Asian Paints to Ikea are using AR to help customers visualize products they see in their homes or on themselves. Some brands even offer AR-enabled virtual tours, combining traditional and e-commerce experiences. Embedding AR in CX provides retailers with higher conversion, stronger marketing and advertising, and better brand recognition.
- Metaverse / Digital Twin Store
Although the concept is not yet widespread, the Metaverse is emerging as a game changer. Huge investments in a Metaverse-driven future promise new and exciting changes to our world. Brands are experimenting with digital twins of their stores, giving online customers a more engaging experience. The Metaverse offers immense potential for small retailers to showcase innovation in-store and add fun, entertainment and unique experiences to their customers. The success of the metaverse in retail will depend on how it evolves as a technology and how easy and beneficial it is to use it.
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Immersive Retail:
Back in the 1990s, when Sega and Nintendo first released their VR gaming headsets, it would have been impossible to imagine its application in retail. Yet just two decades later, we see VR apps have expanded beyond games and into physical and virtual stores, offering curated experiences, touchless try-ons, product customization and travel. numbers in the metaverse. Indeed, the sky is the limit with what will continue to evolve in this space.
- Omnichannel 2.0:
Capturing and delivering consistent experiences across all shopping channels is a crucial part of Experience eCommerce. During the pandemic, omnichannel personalization has gained prominence among retailers hoping to offer contextual content and promotions to boost sales. Omnichannel 2.0, in the context of experiential e-commerce, goes beyond gadgets to provide a unified personalization strategy at scale. It gives brands deeper insight into shopping cart activity. It enables more meaningful customer engagement throughout the buying journey, targeted offers, and smart product recommendations that result in better order value. Omnichannel 2.0 produces and delivers content that can be consumed across multiple platforms and devices, driving sales and customer satisfaction.
- social commerce
Social commerce is another upcoming form of experiential e-commerce. The digital revolution and subsequent popularity of social media gave rise to influencer marketing. Social media stars now wield significant influence over their Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat followers, setting fashion, C-tech and other consumer trends. Brands have been quick to ride this wave of popularity to promote their products and services through sponsored content and product seeding. Since social media also provides AI/ML algorithm data to gather user insights, brands can provide more personalized product recommendations to improve product discovery and in-store shopping experience.
- fast trade
The success or failure of a company’s experiential e-commerce strategy also depends on the robustness of its supply chain network and its ability to deliver. fast trade. Customers want instant gratification once they have virtually experienced a product or service. Therefore, brands will need to ensure instant delivery, making inventory planning and warehousing key elements of experiential commerce. Quick Commerce is a crucial enabler for experiential e-commerce, as delivery delays will hurt the customer experience and negatively impact brand trust and sales.
The writing on the wall is clear: brands will struggle to keep up with modern consumer behavior without experiential e-commerce. They will be mired in the complexity of the market and in fear of rapidly eroding market share. Companies that adopt an innovation-driven CX strategy can achieve higher conversions, better brand memory, and customer satisfaction levels.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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