Competition in the eCommerce space has grown significantly, and it’s only going to increase. Consequently, retailers are taking bold strides to differentiate themselves from competitors and deliver better customer experiences.
If accelerated brand growth is a priority for your 2022 ambition, the retailer’s power play team should play a dominant role in your marketing efforts. Sales formats such as live commerce, voice commerce, and virtual realities are redefining customer experiences for the better.
We’re now seeing more innovative applications of AR and VR in eCommerce; concepts that were once considered futuristic. And more modest, but equally momentous sales formats, like live and voice commerce are re-envisioning how brands build buyer’s journeys marked by ease of access.
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Voice Commerce Growth in 2021
Marketers have anticipated the blow-up of voice commerce for years now, and while that’s yet to happen, it did gain steady traction in 2021. Brands and buyers alike have warmed up to voice search and voice-enabled interactions.
Businesses discovered the growth potential behind voice-enabled technology, and consumers realized its convenience. These developments were further fueled by new technologies and shifts in consumer behavior.
Rise of smart speakers
The market for smart speakers has been growing steadily at an projected increase of 21% CAGR between 2020-2025. This technology provides a single point of contact for consumers to manage smart devices, driving the popularity of voice-enabled interactions.
In the UK alone, 60% of buyers owning smart speakers have placed an order through the device in the past year. Additionally, around 30% of smart speaker owners use their devices to engage with brands. For now, these interactions are specific primarily to eCommerce giants like Amazon, but they offer sufficient evidence for the viability of voice search.
Increased customer engagement
Every step your customer has to take to complete a purchase is friction. Some of this is essential, like adding items to your cart and inputting shipping details. We try to minimize this friction to increase engagement, for example, by allowing returning customers to save their purchase history and billing details.
Voice commerce presents a framework for an unprecedented reduction in friction. Consider this: a customer sees an ad for your product and instead of hunting down your website, they can buy it through Alexa. A lengthy sales funnel is replaced by a near instant transition through the buyer’s journey. Reduced friction and heightened convenience drive engagement.
Achieving this reality may seem like a lofty goal, but megacorps like Amazon are already gearing towards it. The potential is there, but it may take time for retailers to unlock it fully.
Growing repeat sales through item replenishment
Businesses automate repetitive tasks, especially anything that’s trivial yet time-consuming is put on a repeat cycle. For example, welcome sequences and order confirmation emails. Consumers, however, are less sophisticated in their approach to repetitive tasks.
Buyers routinely place similar orders for groceries, and their food delivery choices follow repetitive patterns, too. “The usual, please,” one might say as they walk into Starbucks for the third time in a week. Now, voice commerce translates the request for “the usual” to the digital landscape. Customers can place repeat orders through virtual assistants with just a few commands; moreover, they can schedule reminders for repetitive orders too.
Bottom line: optimizing for voice search is no longer optional
Voice search has not replaced traditional search, nor is it “booming” yet. But it’s a viable, growing channel that enhances consumers’ experiences and accelerates their transition through their buyer’s journey.
Thus, optimizing for voice search is necessary in the modern, competitive landscape. Brands that fail to embrace voice commerce will be forced to play catch-up later at a significant disadvantage to their competition.
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Live Commerce is Not Far Behind
Live commerce facilitates immersive experiences that drive engagement and help brands appeal to new audiences. Like voice search, this model has risen in popularity and consolidated its position as a powerful tool for sales campaigns.
A requirement in Chinese eCommerce
The origin of live commerce’s growth trajectory can be traced back to 2016, when Alibaba launched Taobao Live. The live stream broadcast introduced a new era of shopping where customers could watch streams and shop simultaneously, a truly immersive experience.
The potential of live commerce was immediately evident in the numbers, with Alibaba’s 2020 Single’s Day pre-sales campaign generating $75 billion via Tabao Live in the first 30 minutes. Being one of the most significant shopping events in China, Single’s Day’s live commerce success set a new standard for immersive buying experiences in the nation.
Thus, retailers rapidly embraced the format as a major sales channel, and China’s 2020 live commerce market reached approximately $171 billion in value, a phenomenal 280% increase from 2017.
Companies have reported a 30% conversion rate through live commerce, approximately ten times higher than in traditional e-retail. And while live commerce is no magic wand, this stark difference caught the eCommerce industry’s attention.
Scrutiny of the format revealed live commerce hastens a customer’s transition through their buyer’s journey, from awareness to purchase. While these results are known, the cause remains a debate.
Marketers and industry analysts have attributed conversion success to increased trust, a recommendation-based format, greater information value, a ‘people’ element, and increased entertainment value. But regardless of the reason, or combination of reasons, the results are clear. Live commerce accelerates conversions.
Attracting a younger customer base
This fact shouldn’t come as a surprise – live commerce relies on live streams, which resonate more with younger audiences. Social media’s influence is most prevalent on millennials and generation Z.
This is promising news for eCommerce brands, as many struggle to engage with Gen Z. The new generation is generally more skeptical of brands and holds them to a higher standard of transparency. Thus, with live commerce, e-retailers can more candidly engage with Gen Z, on this generation’s preferred playground.
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VR & Hybrid Reality: a Natural Progression of AR
VR and Hybrid Reality is still nascent for eCommerce, but it’s not going anywhere. Voice and live commerce have gained momentum largely due to their convenience and offering of immersive experiences, respectively. And both these sales driving forces are realized through VR & hybrid realities, with plenty of room for more growth.
Extending the traditional shopping experience
While consumers aren’t quite ready to slap on headsets and immerse themselves in VR, AR has played a critical role in enhancing modern shopping experiences. E-retailers can use augmented reality to create interactive product showcases, so customers can browse and vet products similar to how they would in brick and mortar stores. They can rotate products to view them from different angles, peek inside them, and more advanced eCommerce platforms (like Amazon) have even introduced ‘try-on’ options for clothes and accessories.
Given the progression of AR, it may not be long till VR becomes more prevalent in the eCommerce space. Some large organizations are already putting VR to good use – like StubHub, a ticketing company that lets users test their seat’s view in virtual reality before purchasing tickets.
Improving convenience for the customer
One of the major draws of online shopping is the convenience factor; consumers can browse without the crowds and place orders from the comfort of their homes. But, this convenience comes with certain trade-offs. For example, consumers can’t check products out or try them on before purchasing.
So, with AR and VR bridging this gap, consumers can enjoy the convenience of online shopping without worrying about transparency.
More cost-effective prototyping
Augmented reality increases the convenience and cuts the costs of prototyping, in addition to more transparency and flexibility. For example, consider the real estate sector, where architects can design and pitch models for approval. Similarly, interior design companies can accurately visualize design concepts to increase buyer confidence.
But how does retail benefit from prototyping? Accelerant Research pitches one compelling use case: prototype testing displays for brick and mortar stores. With a prototype designed in augmented reality, businesses can test the customer-friendliness of their displays and store layouts before finalizing design concepts.
Higher sales conversions
Of course, the many benefits of augmented and virtual reality are most effectively realized in your bottom line. As you leverage immersive technology to enhance customer experiences and boost consumer confidence, the result is higher sales conversions. It’s a smart part of a larger plan to grow conversions by focusing on efficiency and the customer experience, from order to fulfillment and returns.
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At a Glance
In the bold new eCommerce landscape, retailers’ goals remain the same despite the means of achieving them changing drastically. The goal of a successful brand is to always deliver optimal customer experiences, increase loyalty, and ultimately drive conversions.
But with the advent of new technologies, evolution in consumer expectations, and unprecedented catalysts like the global pandemic, businesses were forced to innovate and find new strategies to fulfill their ambitions.
So as we head into 2022, live and voice commerce and VR & hybrid realities should be in your toolbelt to deliver optimal customer experiences.
Author: Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse born from the needs of eCommerce companies. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.