Before online shopping and e-commerce there was a more analogue way for consumers to browse products and make purchases: the shopping channel. In their heyday, glamorous hosts on shopping channels like HSN and QVC would extoll the benefits of a product live on TV. They would engage with consumers by phone as they called in to make purchases. In an interesting move, the luxury retailer Ted Baker recently experimented with a live shopping experience reminiscent of this format. Though the reach for the event was small, it piqued our curiosity and led us to explore the merits of live shopping experiences, revamped to incorporate e-commerce and social media to better engage with the customers of today.
Live shopping experiences may be a powerful way to engage with customers as buying increasingly shifts to digital channels. Some of the benefits from this format include allowing consumers to get a sense of the “look and feel” of a product without having to step foot in a physical retail space. Consumers who may be wary of purchasing products they cannot physically interact with first may be motivated to buy if they see a trusted intermediary testing it out. Live experiences also open the opportunity to combine influencers, followers, and products in real time, taking the spokesman role to the next level. If brands use platforms that are equipped with live video, chats, and e-commerce capabilities, they can also create a frictionless, customer-centric shopping environment online.
One of the greatest successes of home shopping was the ability of a brand to help you envision yourself with the product via demonstrations and modeling. Retailers can create this same magic through digital experiences. Judy Bell from Energetic recommends brands take their cues from in-person relationships to establish their digital ones. “What goes into an in-person relationship? Listening, asking questions, trying to understand another’s point of view, and maintaining respectful boundaries. These are just a few characteristics—how can they be carried through online? Here’s one example: I enjoy when my favorite Parisian blouse brand emails me, ‘You have wonderful taste.’ They are acknowledging a certain style of blouse that I looked at on their site. But when I go to a news site, or any other site and the same blouse keeps popping up, that crosses my boundaries.”
But the big question remains, how will consumers respond to these efforts? As brands experiment with new, and old, techniques to engage with audiences in an increasingly online world they must maintain the cardinal rule of marketing: authenticity. However, establishing an earnest connection with consumers is tough when there’s a hefty penalty to pay for inauthentic and low social engagement. Brands may fall out of favor if they cannot successfully navigate their digital relationship with customers or may fail to launch entirely if their content misses the mark. Bell suggests brands keep it simple. “Don’t underestimate the power of a subject line,” Bell says. “Would you be more likely to click on an email from Camper: ‘Everyday Women’s Styles’ or one from Allbirds: ‘New Hues, New Styles in a Wool Dasher Mizzle?’ Which subject line offers something new? It’s surprising how many miss the opportunity to address their clients in ways that pique one’s curiosity.”
Established brands are looking for ways to connect to their customers online, while new brands are looking for ways to stand out amongst the competition and build relationships with customers. “Retailers and brands have a powerful opportunity to build relationships with their online clients like never before,” says Bell. Perhaps the answer lies in refreshing an old television format for a modern era of digital shoppers.