When was the last time you — or even someone you know — went shopping with a big group of friends? Not holiday shopping, or making a quick stop at a store for an online order pickup before heading off to some other activity, but an all-day shopping trip spent perusing malls and outlets that ends with everyone walking back to the car with more bags than you all can hold? It’s been a while all things considered hasn’t it? However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you haven’t been shopping with friends as of late. It’s just different now.

Shopping has always been a social affair, and there’s no reason why shopping online should be any different. Instead of going to the mall with a friend or taking a shopping trip to a big city, we now send each other links and shop online at stores halfway across the globe we otherwise never would have been able to visit — all from the comfort of our own homes. A social interaction is still a social interaction, whether it’s in-person or through eCommerce. But how can you bring more social interaction to your eCommerce platform? It’s all about entertainment.

Staying Relevant Means Embracing Shopping as Entertainment

By now, you know that staying in business requires relevancy. Without relevancy, there’s no interest in your business or desire to shop your products. In the beginning, all it took for an eCommerce experience to be relevant was to make it easy for shoppers to find the products they were looking for. As such, a lot of focus was aimed at optimizing the site structure, navigation, and site search capabilities.

The next evolution was the advent of personalized shopping experiences using algorithms and AI. Relevant eCommerce platforms could send tailor-made suggestions straight to customers’ inboxes based on their browsing history and shopping carts. This was soon followed by social commerce, which uses FOMO and networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as vehicles to promote and sell products and services — effectively creating a need for the products through influencers and social media posts that customers didn’t even know they had. Today, the new frontier is retail entertainment, or “retailtainment.”

Retailtainment is the combination of both retail and entertainment. In this concept, the goal is to create a customer experience that is enticing, engaging and enriching, and goes beyond the simple transactional shopping experiences. If done well, the shopping experience becomes fun and enjoyable for customers. And the positive impacts include increased time spent on the site, increased transaction size, stronger customer loyalty and retention in the long term.

From experiential pop-ups to live shopping shows, both brick-and-mortar and digital stores (including titans like Amazon) are investing in retail entertainment experiences that engage customers, build brand awareness, increase sales, and increase relevance. Staying relevant in the retail industry is not easy, and keeping customers interested and engaged is even harder.

Consider this: With competition growing both online and offline, retailers are looking for new, innovative ways to add value to their existing retail experiences. In what way can you tap into that innovation?

Retailtainment and eCommerce Go Hand In Hand with Ease

ECommerce has a significant advantage over in-store retail when it comes to retailtainment since brands can reach their target groups right where they are already spending more and more time – in the digital world. However, to be successful, brands need to make sure that the added value they offer must be precisely tailored to their customers. As such, a successful retailtainment strategy needs to consider and include the following key elements:

  • Increase Interactivity: The aim of retailtainment is to attract attention and make a lasting impression on customers. Ultimately, when customers perform actions themselves, they store them as memories. As such, invite the customer into the experience and allow them to participate and interact.
  • Make it Feel Personal: The most successful retailtainment strategies make customers feel like the product has been specially developed to meet their individual needs and expectations. This allows the customer to form a personal attachment to the product, increasing the likelihood of purchase.
  • Surprise Your Customers: Although retailtainment is fairly new, more and more companies are now getting into the game. Campaigns that are different and unexpected are currently attracting the most shoppers. So, to stand out, you have to be both authentic and surprise your customers with original formats and content. This novelty effect may wear off as retailtainment becomes the new normal, but standing out from the crowd is a winning strategy today.
  • Deliver on the Basics: It won’t matter how interactive, personal or unexpected you are if you don’t also deliver on the basics. And the basics include a well functioning, secure, intuitive and easy to use purchasing experience. For a retailtainment strategy to be successful, it is important that customers are able to trust in the technical processes. Why would they spend their money on a site that doesn’t deliver on its promise?

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How China Has Perfected Retailtainment

In China, traditional online shopping is swiftly becoming a thing of the past. There, social buying and live commerce already changed the eCommerce landscape even before people were forced to shelter in place and spend more time at home. By adding entertainment into the mix of the traditional online buying experience, Chinese eCommerce giants – such as Alibaba, China’s largest eCommerce company, and PinDuoDuo (“PDD”), the country’s second largest eCommerce site – are actively changing the way that consumers shop.

Recently, China has created a new way to shop called live commerce. This is the convergence of live streaming and eCommerce, which has become very popular with Chinese consumers. During China’s Singles’ Day festival last year, for instance, Alibaba’s Taobao Live event contributed around 20 billion Yuan ($2.86 billion) gross merchandise volume, or about 7.5 percent of the company’s total sales.

According to Chinese financial services firm Everbright Securities, the live commerce market was worth 440 billion Yuan ($63 billion) in 2019, a 220% increase on 2018. According to research from iiMedia, around 25% of consumers are daily users, while 71% watch a live commerce event at least once a week. And it is worth noting that the conversion rates from live commerce sales are much higher than traditional content-driven platforms.

An Element of Celebrity

Live commerce in China is celebrity-driven, but not by traditional film or television stars. Instead it is largely driven by online celebrities with their own fanbases. Austin Li, a.k.a. “The Lipstick King” (who has 22.1 million followers), and Viya (who has 18.1 million followers) are some well known names. Every now and then these online celebrities invite other celebrities to join them. For example, in November 2019 Viya welcomed Kim Kardashian-West, who took only a few minutes to sell 15,000 bottles of her KKW-branded perfume.

Despite the popularity of the live commerce market in Asia, it has been slow to catch on in other parts of the world. In the West, live streaming for the most part focuses on gaming via platforms such as Facebook or Twitch. In addition, Amazon has launched Amazon Live where sellers can live-stream product demonstrations, engage consumers in fireside chats, and directly link viewers to the mentioned products for purchase. Unfortunately, Amazon Live lacks many interactive features and has struggled to connect with consumers. Other players investing in live video include the home shopping network QVC who announced the launch of its video-based mobile shopping app earlier this year.

Evolving Tools and Services in eCommerce

The key drivers behind the growth of live commerce and retailtainment in China are innovative tools and services that have drastically changed online shopping by making it more exciting, interactive and personal. There is now an opportunity for Western companies to refresh their approach to online shopping. Millennials are on the cusp of replacing baby boomers as the biggest adult generation (according to the U.S. Census Bureau) and they are already spending a significant amount of their money on “experiences” over products. Their impact on the economy will increase as this group enters their prime spending years. So retailers need to reevaluate how they keep their existing customer base and attract new shoppers.

In 2021, digital commerce has two diverse paths: meeting demand vs. creating demand. Transactional convenience of online shopping meets the demand for particular products. Alternatively, retailtainment fulfills the initiative of creating demand. It is occasion-based and leverages the emotional value of the purchase. It is imperative that these two paths are consistent. That’s because, these days, customers expect aligned experiences across all touch points.

Vaimo helps clients bridge the gap between digital commerce being transactional-only to a demand-oriented experience, all while helping you understand the opportunities and risks along the way. To learn more about how we make this happen as well as our expertise working with many of the world’s top brands, reach out to Vaimo today.

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