The future of retail and the ways that retail has changed for consumers during the pandemic
By: Stefan Hauswiesner, CEO and co-founder of Reactive Reality (www.reactivereality.com),
E-commerce and online retail has grown significantly in the past 15-months, but online retailers need to keep pace when it comes to technological progress in order to retain customers and draw in new ones.
It is cheaper and faster than ever to buy clothes online, and the trend has accelerated rapidly over the past year due to lockdowns and the resulting closure of physical stores. In response, many retailers have removed friction from their buying journey in order to push customers through the conversion funnel faster, but this has come at the cost of consumer enjoyment. While the fashion e-commerce market has grown and sales are at an all-time high, paradoxically many have found themselves feeling dissatisfied with the experience. A global survey by Contentsquare shows that only 15% of online shoppers are happy with the current online shopping experience, with almost a third of respondents saying that they associate online shopping with emotions such as boredom, frustration, and even anxiety.
Many consumers attempt to overcome the shortcomings of online shopping by ordering more clothes than required, with the intention of returning some (if not all). This shift in consumer behaviour is having huge environmental consequences: approximately 2.3 billion kilos-worth of returns ends up in US landfills alone, resulting in 15 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, according to Optoro. This returns glut is also hitting retailer profits; according to Gartner Research, under half of returned goods are resold at full price, and most retailers are poorly equipped to deal with the complex logistical challenges involved.
Reactive Reality is tackling the problem of customer dissatisfaction (and resulting high return rates) by providing a useful and engaging virtual fitting experience, bringing excitement to previously monotonous e-commerce websites. In line with their concept of E-Commerce 3.0, which puts a focus on “fit & fun”, the PICTOFIT platform helps brands and retailers differentiate themselves and win in this new era by focusing on the consumer experience. The AR technology creates an immersive online shopping experience that allows consumers to try clothes on virtually, thus fostering a stronger connection between consumers and brands, leading to purchases being made with a greater intention to wear. This is illustrated by customer data demonstrating that Reactive Reality’s technology increases sales revenue per user by 500% as users spend 441% more time on websites where it is implemented.
The current online shopping experience is no accident; it is a direct result of the priorities of major platforms. In the early days of e-commerce, “E-Commerce 1.0”, retailers simply offered their inventory online in the form of a 24/7 available list of products. Over time, “E-Commerce 2.0” emerged with a strong focus on logistics and reducing the friction between shopping cart and checkout. Consequently, all the shops converged to the same layout, resulting in the transactional shopping experience we see today. However, change is underway. Consumers are shifting their preferences and looking for new, more engaging online shopping experiences.
We see a future where brands and retailers can compete with, and win out against the larger more well-known marketplaces, by putting the Consumer Experience (CX) at the centre of their efforts. We call this new inception “E-Commerce 3.0”.
Accelerated by the global pandemic, the fashion retail market has rapidly shifted towards e-commerce. However, despite its great convenience when compared with physical shopping, current webshops’ flat and static images make it hard for online shoppers to get an accurate sense of what a garment will look like in reality. It also does very little to add to the overall excitement of the online shopping experience when compared to visiting a brick-and-mortar store.
At Reactive Reality, we are revolutionising e-commerce websites by enabling consumers to virtually try clothes on photo-realistic avatars of themselves, a fun experience that leads to better purchasing decisions and improved brand loyalty. In providing an end-to-end solution, and cutting out the need to engage multiple technology vendors, we are empowering brands of all sizes to enhance their webshops, so that they are viewed as more than just a place to complete transactions as quickly as possible and leave.
One of the biggest outcomes of the pandemic for consumers is an acceleration towards change for good, streamlining unnecessary, archaic processes and improving the consumer experience. Whether that is online or in-store, by offering more streamlined processes and by giving considerate options to consumers who are increasingly turning to e-commerce and online shopping, retailers and brands are acting smartly to drive consumers to buy what they want, with the knowledge that it will be right when it arrives, rather than having the long process of having to return when they do not fit right.