Show don't tell: Here’s how to drive shopper engagement with immersive online content

A guest article by the Geekspeak team. Geespeak is an eCommerce services company focused on helping clients sell more and develop a following of loyal buyers.

Gone are the days when shoppers were content to browse static images on a desktop. With the continued growth of shopping via mobile devices with apps and using an ever-increasing number of WiFi hotspots, today's consumer has an enormous amount of information right at their fingertips.

The time of the passive shopper, content to be told which product suits their needs, has passed. Armed with access to almost limitless information, consumers are re-inventing the shopping experience. Short on time, this new generation of online shoppers looks for a store that shows rather than tells. They know the details, they want to "feel" and "smell" the product.

Enter the immersive online product experience.

Sensory engagement is the new image

Bricks and mortar stores take full advantage of their position in the retail-shopping arena: they offer the personal touch. They have the customer in the store and can use attractive displays, subtle (or not so subtle) music, and knowledgeable assistants to create a sensory experience that puts the shopper in the mood to buy.

The more adventurous fashion stores have introduced fitting rooms with interactive mirrors. Here, the shopper tries on an outfit and steps in front of the mirror that then displays recommended accessories and their location in the store.

Recreating a similar sensory experience is crucial for online stores. Featuring pages full of flat images of pants, dresses, or shoes with no suggestion of matching accessories simply leaves the shopper with no option but to put together a look for themselves. With no helpful assistant or useful links, this is not easy.  And if it's not easy, the shopper either ends up buying just one item or, even worse, makes note of the product and pops off for an in-store experience.

Savvy e-commerce stores have introduced interactive videos or shoppable imagery to their online sites to try and recreate that in-store experience. Engaging video content both improves the look of your e-commerce website and has a huge impact on motivating customer behaviour. According to Kissmetrics, 65 - 85 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product after viewing a product video.

Online retailers have begun creating their own "TV channels" to bring shoppable videos to consumers. Check out Boohoo TV, Selfridges Hot Air, and Marks and Spencer TV for short, snappy videos aimed at creating customer engagement.

Going virtual

Until recently, virtual reality was something usually associated with the gaming sphere. But as e-retailers search to give their customers an immersive experience, virtual reality technology is predicted to become the next step in an increasingly digital world.

Furniture giant Ikea created an augmented reality feature on their mobile app that allows customers to view and place 3D virtual products in their own homes. The idea is to give customers the chance to see how their home could look, helping to eliminate guesswork and make sure that products would be suited to their own space.

In 2014, Lowes introduced the in-store "holoroom" where shoppers could walk through a virtual version of their dream home, changing colours, switching appliances, and moving walls with a simple finger swipe on an iPad.

Given the number of variations of furniture and appliances available, it can be difficult for a shopper to visualize how an item will look in their own home – who hasn't bought furniture or an appliance to find it doesn't look as good in their home as it did in the showroom? Virtual reality is on course to help.

Interactive, shoppable photos

It's no secret that images do better than text only, but making those images interactive could also engage the customer and drive conversions. The reality is that most customers have been shopping long before they reach any particular e-commerce site and interactive images are fast becoming the new buy buttons.

In this age of instant gratification, tagging images to link directly to product pages can give your brand a better conversion rate, particularly if social media is part of your marketing strategy.

Creating the immersive experience

Take a look at how consumers typically use your e-commerce website and then reimagine those interactions as immersive experiences. With so many options and so little time, consumers are generally looking to quickly translate their e-commerce experience into a transactional experience.

Whether you opt for interactive videos, virtual reality, or other shoppable images, you need to quickly capture and retain the attention of the consumer.

A landing page with embedded video, "Buy Now" buttons, "quick looks" that let the shopper expand an image to reveal more detail, like size or colour options, and an easy path to purchase are all tools the savvy e-commerce retailer can use to give consumers the immersive, interactive experience they're looking for.



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