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The future of ecommerce is individualisation

Today’s consumers expect tailored, curated experiences and brands are now on the hook to deliver a future of shopping that includes individualisation and AI-driven experiences. In a recent Salesforce survey, 73% of responding consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and over half think companies should go as far as anticipating them. To reach a truly individualised world where brands, people, and goods are interconnected, there are three phases of ecommerce we need to move through before achieving the ultimate shopping experience.

People Searching For Goods

The civilised world is currently in the ecommerce 1.0 phase, characterised by a transactional shopping experience where consumers search for the item they want to buy. Whether it’s choosing milk from the grocery store or looking for a pair of sneakers online, the act of proactively searching for the product is the same. While websites have evolved in their sophistication over time, the fundamental shopping experience of ecommerce has remained largely unchanged for the past two decades.

Compared to Asia, the ecommerce experience is very different. In China, for example, a few years ago 80% of online purchases began with search and 20% were driven by product recommendations and cognitive dissonance. Whereas now the opposite is true with 80% of online purchases driven by product recommendations. Which brings us to the next phase.

Goods Searching For People

With ecommerce 2.0, we witness the rise of recommendation engines and individualisation in product feeds, and thanks to machine learning most productively in marketing email product offerings. Imagine going in to enter a search query for a specific product, only to be greeted with unlimited product recommendations that you didn’t even know you wanted or needed.

Or what if you could scan a photo of your colleague’s watch and receive countless product comparisons with similar items at the best price points? Platforms like Alibaba’s Taobao, China’s largest online marketplace, have already embraced e-commerce 2.0 by combining personalisation, entertainment, and infinite scroll to transform the way people shop and pay, and it won’t be long before the rest of us follows suit. Similarly, solutions like SwiftERM deliver finite individualised content for each consumer, both created and sent autonomously, for early adopter sites enjoying significant additional returns.

Businesses armed with SKU-level purchase data have a distinct advantage in driving tailored experiences. At the moment, only a handful of companies possess the complete mix required to succeed in this space. For instance, traditional credit cards may know where consumers shop, but don’t know the exact items they buy; social media platforms may know if consumers click on a link, but not if the purchase was made; and search engines may hold data on purchase intent, but lack full attribution.

Then there’s the question of trust. Consumer seeing truly unbiased results when searching for a product, or seeing sponsored content and algorithms that are optimising links for ad revenue? Meanwhile retailers are increasing their spend to compete for the number one spot. This may be one of the reasons why $52 billion will be spent on Retail Media Networks in 2023 according to Statista.

Connecting Goods With People – individualisation

If the first phase of ecommerce was in search, and the second phase is personalisation, the third phase is individualisation. While the consumer economy is alive and thriving today, it is nowhere near reaching its full potential. Nowadays, ecommerce retailers and stores are still the main intermediaries between people and products, sprinkled with paid influencer campaigns.

Brands like Burberry are reimagining physical storefronts of the future through more socially interactive elements for consumers, while others like Lancome look to expand audience reach with influencer partnerships with Emma Chamberlain. In the future, brands and stores will be a part of the mix, but creators will take the lead as key players in connecting goods and people to transform the now transactional way of shopping into more meaningful, relevant and entertaining experiences.

But while the high street remains hopeful of remaining in touch with ecommerce, as personal individualisation ever perpetuates into peoples lives, so too does it become the norm. As such the high street will suffer at the hands of each new generation, unaccustomed as they are to venturing somewhere else to make a purchase when it comes to them. This especially if they’re made to feel that what is offered to them lacks an appreciation of them as unique and special, you could also add appreciated, and most importantly as an individual.

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