(R)ETAIL (R)EVOLUTION – Part 2: (M)etail

In a continuation from last week’s post: Part 1: E is Everywhere, the (R)ETAIL (R)EVOLUTION is a phenomenal trends report that was put out by Trendwatching.com. Today I’ll be covering Part 2: (M)etail.

Related: Canadian eCommerce Monthly Trends Reports & Quarterly Benchmark Reports

eCommerce Is No Longer Impersonal

One of the biggest issues with eCommerce, and the web in general, was a lack of personalization. Before proper technology was developed, it was hard to tell who exactly was visiting your website, and therefore you couldn’t tailor the experience to a particular customer. “Nothing” could beat your regular experience in a physical retail location, where a sales person was there to help you, answer your questions, and give a customized experience to fit your needs. But how do we achieve that with eCommerce? The answer is: new technological developments and solutions! One like Y by Red Wolf Online which can understand the context of what customers are viewing, respond exactly to what people want and then display relevant messaging to properly engage the customer! Cool!

Now that we have the technology gap out of the way, the latest craze in everything eCommerce and the world wide web is personalization. Customers want to feel important, and cared for, so having your website tailor to them is key! It gives a far richer, deeper and personalized online experience*. Etail is truly becoming (M)etail!

Personalization, however, can mean many different things: from curation to self production, customer investment and personal service – the web is becoming more creative, and way more personal. Having that personal aspect can help increase customer engagement and of course the fun factor of being online. What’s better than that? 🙂

Creative Curation

One of the most popular curation sites on the web is of course Pinterest. A virtual pinboard that allows you to organize and share all the things you love with your friends and others on the web. By invitation only, it has quickly become one of the most popular ways to curate and leave your mark on the web by showcasing your style and interests! As an avid “pinner”, I love pinning pictures and links to my “boards” to go back to later or getting ideas for fashion, hair and beauty. When Pinterest first started it was very basic and mostly used by young women, but businesses all over the world have started using it to promote their business and products as well! A curation site that is truly focused on eCommerce is Fancy, which is like Pinterest for products. It has similar format to Pinterest but every product has a link to buy it. Their tag line explains it all: “Discover amazing stuff, collect the things you love, unlock crazy good deals”.

The Spanish retailer Zara has also tapped into the curation craze by creating “People!“. This initiative asks their customers to post a picture of themselves wearing at least two pieces of their Summer/Spring 2012 line. If your picture is chosen, it will be published on their website and the contributor is awarded 300 Euros!

Consumers Become Producers

It seems like there’s nothing better than creating your own one-of-a-kind product. eCommerce is helping to make this happen by enabling companies to have websites that allow customers to create, design and tweak their products. With the help of social media, personalization is taken one step further and allows those customers to then sell their custom creation and profit from it too! Converse Made By is a Facebook app that allows customers to design their own Converse shoes and then sell them to their friends through social networks and their very own virtual store. If the customer/designer is successful enough, they are rewarded with free Converse shoes.

Another great example comes from a group of whiskey enthusiasts in Scotland that have created a website called Whiskey Blender, where you can create your own blend of whiskey, with a custom name, and have it shipped to you! You can even save your special blend with a code to share it, so others can buy your whiskey blend too!

Customer Investment

It has usually always been the company that has determined what products they think customers want, but not anymore! Now customers have access to websites that gathers investment capital to help fund the production of really cool products that people actually want. Sites like Kickstarter enable entrepreneurs, designers and creators to pitch products directly to consumers and gather pledges for production. Some products that have been produced directly from customer investment include:
TikTok, a watch-strap attachment for the iPod Nano. It was able to raise US$ 900,000 from 13,500 people on Kickstarter
Coffee Joulies, metal coffee beans that help to cool extremely hot beverages and then maintain the heat as the drink cools. It raised US$500,000 from 5,000 people.

Thanks to the revolution of eCommerce and web access around the world, customers are now able to demand and fund products they want.

Personal Service

One of the disadvantages of not shopping in a physical store has been losing the ability to communicate with sales associates and get advice on the spot. However don’t fret! With the adoption of social technologies etailers can now interact in real time with their online shoppers. This allows customers to get the answers they need when shopping online. This can help to decrease shopping cart abandonment, and reservations about buying products online. Online retailers have begun offering 24/7 live online chat services with sales specialists to connecting consumers with other consumers, as well as displaying recommendations and reviews. British fashion etailer ASOS offers customers Style Sessions through Skype. Consumers are able to ask the Style Advisors questions about their apparel and get advice on what to buy. Reach.ly, a Latvian service company, connects hotels with guests in real time. How? By filtering Twitter traffic and connecting consumers who have expressed interest in travelling to a particular city with hotels in that area.

Check back in next Friday, June 22nd, for Part 3: E(asy)-Commerce.

*Source: www.trendwatching.com. One of the world’s leading trend firms, trendwatching.com sends out its free, monthly Trend Briefings to more than 160,000 subscribers worldwide.