Chasing the Possibilities of Engaged Commerce in Digital Shopping

Last week, I tried my first face yoga class online. It was on Zoom, with about 70 regulars and a few newcomers like me. Around the 30-minute mark, the instructor asked us to grab our herbal oils. And I thought, “Wait, what oil?” No one had mentioned that!

After the class, I found myself in another session—this time, an endless search for the perfect herbal oil for face yoga. There were hundreds of options! While one blog post was featuring a certain brand, that product’s reviews on a marketplace were including complaints about acne. While forums had entries listing tons of different products, it became exhausting to go to each website for an idea about the price range. 

I like being an informed buyer. Yet, I wish getting informed and inspired were more engaging. 

That’s not a frustration unique to me. The sea of options and messages might seem liberating, but most digital shoppers end up with decision fatigue, causing retailers to suffer from lack of engagement, low sales conversions, and lost revenue on their digital stores. 

That’s why I find it crucial to rethink the digital shopping experience and explore the possibilities of engaged eCommerce. Based on my over three-year experience of working at Storyly, a technology platform enabling interactive, personalized, and shoppable content experiences for eCommerce apps and websites, I aim to provide an overview of the concept of engaged Commerce.  

Beyond the Fastest Conversion

According to Oberlo, the average eCommerce conversion rate last year fell between 1.66% and 2.33%, the lowest belonging to February 2023 and the highest belonging to December 2023. The image of a traditional shopping journey starting with an Instagram ad, proceeding with website visit, and concluding with the checkout seems appealing. Yet, this ideal model of the fastest conversion doesn’t represent the reality, proven by industry average for conversion rates being quite low.  

Although sales conversions continue to be a north star metric for the eCommerce industry, we need to be able to look beyond them, trying to understand other factors that encourage a purchase such as brand loyalty, brand advocacy, community, and the power of content.

With the fierce competition for shoppers’ one second of attention, it’s not enough to attract new audiences with ads here and there. Your store needs to provide the right form of experience that will inspire, entertain, and inform, that will bring them back for the second purchase, that will motivate them to talk about you around their social circles.    

The Pillars of Engaged Commerce

The idea of engaged commerce requires an alternative perspective on the shopping experience. It puts content experiences at the center of everything because that is how you offer value, build your brand identity, and engage with your community. In other words, content helps you look beyond one-time-only conversions, create loops of engagement for your customers, and retain them with pre- and post-purchase content experiences. So, it can also be considered as “content to commerce” or “content-led commerce.”

Since content as a concept is extremely vague and comprehensive, it might mean anything from authoring blog posts to building a YouTube channel or hosting videos on your website. What’s critical here is that for content to nurture commerce, it’s wise to make content experiences a part of your store (app or website).

So, the pillars of an engaged eCommerce store can be listed as follows:

Content experiences: Product videos, community videos, digital versions of catalogs—any form of content that engages shoppers.

Interactivity: Games or gamification experiences, quizzes, trivia, interactive gift guides and buyer guides, choose-your-adventure scenarios.

Personalization: Not only personalized recommendations but content personalization based on different segments and preferences.

Shoppable media: The most important factor to drive commerce with content. Enabling easy add-to-cart and checkout.

How to Create Engaged Commerce Experiences in Your Digital Store
1) Inspire and Entertain with Dynamic Videos

Most marketers who believe in the power of video content invest in a YouTube channel, TikTok profile, or influencer marketing. Yet, their stores lack the engagement and vibrant feeling that videos provide. Repurposing video content on the brand website gives shoppers a reason to visit. Inspiration and entertainment can become impactful triggers for purchase behavior.

2) Make Content Central to the Whole Customer Journey from Discovery to Post-Purchase

Content is mostly used by retailers as a means to drive brand awareness. Yet, it’s a huge opportunity untapped if you don’t incorporate content into the whole journey. Start improving product discovery experiences with inspiring content in your digital store. Engage with customers to turn them into repeat buyers and even brand advocates. Make content even a part of your post-purchase experience. 

3) Personalize Your Content Based on Your Customers’ Demographics, Behaviors, Motivations, and Preferences

According to McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect personalization and 76% of consumers get frustrated when they don’t find it. Personalization is a rule of thumb for the eCommerce industry at the moment. Yet, it’s important how you handle it.

If you only segment your audience based on demographics, there is a huge chance that you’ll try to target quite dissimilar personas with the same messaging.

If you still pursue personalization based on third-party data and cookies, it’s likely that privacy-aware consumers will condemn you for stalking.

If you limit your personalization strategy to personalized product recommendations, you might end up suggesting vacuum cleaners to customers who just bought one last week.

So, in engaged eCommerce, personalization should be about showing personalized content (not only recommendations) to shoppers by relying on a combination of first-party data (behavioral data) and zero-party data (intentionally shared by shoppers about their preferences and motivations).

4) Multiply the Possibilities of Interaction for Shoppers

Interactivity is crucial for engaged eCommerce not only to entertain shoppers but also to create a space for them to express their opinions. Interactive content helps you collect customer feedback and ensure customer satisfaction. Besides, it’s a cool way to get to know customers, make data-driven decisions, or create game-like experiences.

5) Make Your Content Shoppable for an Intuitive Checkout Experience

Engaged commerce means utilizing content to drive commerce. It’s also possible to call it content-to-commerce or content-led commerce. That’s why content needs to be at the heart of everything, but it also needs to drive sales conversions. The best way to ensure this is through intuitive checkout experiences. Shoppable app or website content (such as videos and images) enables customers to add items to their cart easily.

Embracing engaged commerce means rethinking the digital shopping experience by focusing on content, interactivity, personalization, and shoppable media. By creating an inspiring and engaging journey for shoppers, you can build stronger customer relationships, boost loyalty, and drive long-term success for your eCommerce store. If you’re interested in exploring engaged eCommerce opportunities, feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIn or send a message to Storyly.

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