Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How instore creativity can be replicated in online stores

By James Brooke, CEO, Amplience

The number of people visiting shops versus those purchasing online is a topic that has long occupied retail minds. In recent years we saw the decimation of the high street while we were in forced lockdown, but after the pandemic shoppers returned to physical stores in their droves, eager to soak up the unique in-store experience.

This behaviour has been eye-opening. Proving that, despite the convenience of Ecommerce, retail therapy in the form of an actual trip to the shops, still can’t be beaten for many consumers.

Who can blame them? It is typically in-store that retailers can unleash their most creative ideas for customers, delivering visual surprises and promotions that differentiate them in the market, and encourage customers to come back. This is more challenging to achieve online where the priority has been on delivering a functioning customer experience that delivers them efficiently, but without fanfare, to the checkout. It is harder to stand out, and as economic pressures build, it becomes even more important to provide customers with a memorable visit that makes them keen to come back for more.

Other factors are also playing a part in how customers interact online. Social media has shifted shoppers away from the homepage, instead landing them directly onto product pages where they often miss out on the important brand experience. And the sheer number of IoT devices that are being used to connect and buy from retailers means that they must be in control of the experience they deliver across multiple different channels. This tsunami of choice means that retailers are scrabbling to draw attention to themselves however they can, and winning loyalty is the holy grail.

Creating a retail heaven

A high street shop may have physical boundaries, but physical retailers turn these to their advantage by pouring their creative resources into making that space a retail heaven, where the customer experience is outstanding. This is not so easy to achieve for online retailers who are spread more thinly, and simply dipping their toes into the digital waters is no longer enough.

It is only by using modern technologies and digital platforms that enable experiences to hinge entirely on customers, that Ecommerce retailers will thrive. It is that dedication of purpose that will keep customers loyal and not constantly distracted by the competition.

Speed and variety are the keys. As customer preferences alter, online retailers are under pressure to constantly update the journey they are delivering to their customers which means designing and delivering multiple versions of the brand experience and iterating content multiple times, not just monthly, but weekly, or even daily. Automation certainly helps.

If Ecommerce retailers are being hampered by backlogs in their processes and workflows, it may be because they are working with monolithic platforms. These older solutions are unable to support little more than monthly content changes, and are often dependent on the involvement of developers, rather than being intuitive enough for marketing or commerce departments to use.

Solving this problem means moving away from rigid technology and systems that fail to support content management. Instead, what retailers need today are platforms that allow them to control the customer experience in content. This means getting rid of complicated templates that require a developer’s skills, so that updating content is fast, and supports the flow of creativity.

MACH to better serve multiple channels

A modern CMS will incorporate MACH principles (Micro-services, API-first, Cloud native, Headless) and this combination is designed specifically to natively support the full range of channels that online retailers today must serve. Teams across the business, and not just in development, can work together to amplify content in a more agile way that does not sacrifice quality.

By being proactive about the content that is being served up to customers, Ecommerce retailers will more closely capture the creativity that their counterparts in physical retail are achieving. This, in turn, will not just customers’ ever-evolving expectations but exceed them, and better align their offline and online experiences moving forward.