For all of us sitting at home, patiently waiting for the world to heal and to get back into our favorite cafes, restaurants and stores - Think hard: What is it exactly that you miss?
Whatever *that* is, transpose it to e-commerce you’ll strike gold. We won’t give any savvy folks like you a marketing 101 lesson, but consider how much retail as a whole has evolved over centuries - going from functional to experiential - that same evolution is coming (fast) to eCommerce.
So how do you transpose the Supreme, Prada, UniQlo, or FAO Schwartz retail experience into eCommerce? In short - How do you bring a skatepark onto a website? (seriously - how do you? DM if you have a solution).
Gen Z is already paving the path forward with creativity, quirkiness, boldness by blurring the lines between gaming, social networking, entertainment and commerce. Just look at Monet, Pinata Farm and Trash to completely rewire your brain on how commerce “should” work.
If you pull on that thread a little more, you might even take a second look at the long-term edge of Shopify. Shopify’s great at setting guard rails for eCommerce, helping anyone create a “functional” site efficiently. But what happens when functionality is just “meh” and people start shopping next door where things are messy and fun? Do people then re-platform to Webflow? Who knows. But a wise man once said “People will forget what you said, but never how you made them feel”. So sit on that for a bit and buckle up for the experiential commerce revolution.
There are 5 levels to this game. So where do you sit?
Level 1: The Peacocks
These are websites that are not particularly interactive, yet they stand out head and shoulders above the rest. You just cannot ignore the feathers on these sites. The peacocks have many weapons in their arsenal: From light animations, to thought-provoking copy to simple striking colors. The war of the peacocks is playing out before our very eyes - Who has the best aesthetic?
Level 2: The Surfers
Remember when we said “People will forget what you said, but never how you made them feel”. This starts at level 2. The surfers bring feeling to eCommerce. The flows are gentle, the experience is mellow and all of a sudden…. You’ve completed your purchase. This is often achieved via parallax but there are many other ways to ride the wave.
Level 3: The raconteurs
When you’re no longer concerned about whether customers will add to their cart, then you can start communicating with your audience. You can take them for a stroll, interact with them, offer them some champagne. Let’s forget about adding in credit card details, let me tell you a story. These sites are often very high production, completely custom-built and they win lots of design awards.
Level 4: The enchanters
Champagne is a commodity. I’m much more sophisticated than bubbles or t-shirts. I don’t care about the size, the fit, the color: Give me something I can’t buy. Show me the world in a different light. That’s a call for “the enchanters” - they bring theatre to eCommerce (not all plays are good though). This is where virtual reality starts to take place. Remember we’re still in the very early days of experiential commerce, so this will evolve. Today, it doesn’t feel as immersive as it should - But in the blink of an eye, you’ll be shopping Lululemon pants at Catty’s Corner in Fortnite (bonus points if you know what we are talking about).
Level 5: The artists
The final boss: The artists. This is true for experiential commerce, but also true for life in a lot of ways. A world without artists is just a blank sheet of paper. Though the artists still accept payments, there are no sales objectives to hit, no site visitor metrics to aim for, no A/B testing protocols, no customer support - It’s just art, and the experience is open to interpretation. These sites might be here for a day or two before they disappear. They might sell items for $1 or $1M and only accept payment in dogecoins, and you may or may not receive your order in the mail. But hey, it’s art: You’re paying for the experience, not the product.
Is there a level 6,7,8,9,10 and beyond?! Yeah. Most definitely
What’s fun about this wave is that it’s semi-predictable. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’ve seen retail stores evolve from mall boxes with boring old shelves to “shoppable apartments” where you can pick up anything you like and buy it.
So we know what’s coming - and it boils down to more of the 5 senses.
On touch and vision: VR and AR with tools like NexTech AR are leading the charge, recreating digital twins of products for you to play and interact with. But hey - don’t get too complacent with these technologies - Push further, and further again. If you’re craving for inspo, start by reading about the “direct-to-avatar economy” and that’ll set you on the right track.
With hearing, the experiential commerce revolution is happening as we speak. Voice Shopping is estimated to reach $40 Billion in U.S. by 2022. Let’s now move beyond the functional aspect of optimizing an online shop for voice search and create dedicated experiences serving and enchanting the customers needs. Gucci is exploring “hearing” by recreating the office sound in a 3D environmental; Barilla already offers playlists that tell you how to cook your pasta al dente and Four Sigmatic is offering live “solstice sound baths” on Zoom.
Another sense that’s in testing mode is “digital scent”. A decade ago the start-up Digiscents had the ambitious plans of becoming the “Microsoft of digital scent technology.” Unfortunately the time to market wasn’t right. But since then, other startups have emerged such as Aromajoin: A Japanese company which can create different scents in split seconds via a USB powered device. It’s completely bonkers. I know. And even Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom, has openly discussed plans that involve smelling coffee while on a Zoom meeting. An emerging sense that’s bound to make it to e-commerce.
And finally, don’t sleep on the seemingly impossible: “Digital taste”. Keep track of brilliant thinkers like Nimesha Ranasinghe, one of the world’s leading researchers on electric taste simulation. Nimesha sticks electrode-embedded chopsticks to fool the tongue into experiencing tastes that aren’t there. Mind… BLOWN.
Either way, we’re all (probably?) gonna end up in the metaverse, shopping for cyborg groceries inside Animal Crossing after a long day of selling digital turtlenecks or other untangible goods
See you in the metaverse friends!
Marie & Tim.
A brilliant essay on the BuzzFeedification of Mental Health. Read here.
Another fantastic essay! Kevin Kwok shares a great insight into how Figma has deployed atomic concepts to compete effectively against incumbents like Adobe. Read here.
Always be specific. Read here.
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Une pépite ! merci !