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Navigating the New Normal of Digital Commerce

The health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic continues to transform the e-business landscape. Jointly with Internet Retailing, Gary Ballabio, Cloudinary’s Head of Technology Partnerships, recently moderated the webinar Navigating the New Normal of Digital Commerce. Panelists from Wunderman Thompson Commerce and Incisiv spoke to the emerging and evolving trends along with a focus on three themes:

  • The data behind the e-commerce shifts over the past year
  • The evolving online-purchase journey, in particular the ongoing changes of shoppers’ values and behaviors
  • The channels and processes through which shoppers are discovering new products to buy and the related tools

Also emphasized was that today’s digital economy is a visual one in which brands must connect with shoppers in depth through compelling, visual-centric experiences. Absent those cues and connections, shopper disappointment results, sometimes even leading to abandoned carts and lost loyalty.

Through e-commerce, brands own 100 percent of the sales process as shoppers bounce around among competitors before making purchase decisions. To attract and then convert shoppers, brands must draw them in and keep them engaged, ultimately convincing them to make purchases without clicking to a competitor.

Even though Amazon has become the default platform for more than 50 percent of product searches, they are from high-intention shoppers who are looking for more information or a better price. As much as price competitiveness and shipping times and fees are major factors for purchase decisions, rich and interactive visual media is also a key influence. In fact:

Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, people who usually do not shop online because they prefer a tactile experience or are put off by the hassle of online returns have been forced to adapt. Still, returns are often perceived as an unnecessary risk and exposure for e-businesses.

A proven way in which to minimize returns is through visual media. In the absence of in-store associates, brands must amplify the role and visibility of rich media—including user-generated content (UGC)—to address potential questions and eliminate concerns. In particular, long a welcome source of information for online shoppers, UGC shines more light on products, adds authenticity, builds trust, and reduces returns.

In the past year, the omnichannel experience has grown exponentially, having evolved into one of peer referrals—called dark social, the untraceable digital life of your brand story. The famous iceberg metaphor seems to apply here, given that 80 percent of the online communications about a brand is invisible.

To measure and enhance the value of those exchanges, track the referral links and, more important, create appealing, branded content that goes beyond the product itself. Toward that end, video, long recognized as the best storytelling vector, is tremendously helpful. Just consider the partnership between TikTok and Shopify, two successful and influential companies with a massive audience outreach. Besides product videos and demos, sellers must tell a captivating story through other videos—be funny or dramatic where appropriate—to connect with the audience and inspire them to share.

Indisputably, the evolution of digital commerce caused by the recent economic, societal, technological, and demographic trends will continue to influence where we spend our time and how we engage with one another and with information. For more insight, watch the webinar.

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