Ecommerce Entertainment Equals Engagement

Ecommerce entertainment is a fast-emerging trend that I predict merchants will need to build into their growth strategies and investment plans this year. “Showbiz” is going to be the new ecommerce battleground.

The convergence of tech, commerce, brand power and the consumer hunger for enjoyable experiences will increasingly drive competitive differentiation for merchants and marketplaces.

Consider just a handful of the celeb-fronted brands on the ecommerce entertainment front, capturing hearts, minds and wallets these days. You have everything from Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin to Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company, Kate Hudson’s Fabletics, Kim Kardashian’s Skims and SKKN, Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty and Drew Barrymore’ Flower Beauty … the list goes on and on.

All that to say, entertainment and commerce hand-in-hand, the former spurring on the latter.

Growth Will Be An Incremental Battle From Here On Out

Merchants need a new competitive edge to capture interest, as consumers are so easily distracted. Holding and keeping their attention, let alone turning them into repeat customers, now takes more effort than ever.

Many merchants kickstarted their ecommerce channels at the start of the pandemic, or at least began to take it more seriously. But that’s three long years ago and both behaviors and relevant technologies change quickly.

Most merchants now understand the fundamentals of a good ecommerce customer experience. Fast page loading, frequent refreshes of featured products, easily navigable site links to ancillaries, avoiding promotion of out of stock are all table stakes.

We also know the rapid growth in ecommerce is plateauing. Ecommerce sales growth for the fourth quarter stood at 6.49%, compared to 9.27% for Q3 and 11.10% for Q4 2021.

It’s now a fierce battle for every pair of eyeballs and dollar of revenue. Business growth comes inch by inch, and average inputs won’t generate even average sales anymore.

They Need a Compelling Reason to Pay Attention and Care

Customer expectations have become more sophisticated and the customer experience needs elevating in response. Entertainment in its widest definition can play a huge role in lifting your brand and CX above the ordinary so customers return and make positive recommendations. Gamification rewards also create real fans. The alternative is a downward spiral of price promotions as the only sales driver.

I’m not alone in thinking this. Forrester’s latest “Predictions 2023: Commerce Report” states “brands will add entertainment to the front of their direct-to-consumer playbooks.” It points to the deal between Walmart and Paramount+ to bundle the streaming service with Walmart+ as an example.

The ecommerce entertainment trend is reflected in the growth of live shopping events that seek to create buzz and generate conversions. Physical stores have long brought some pizzazz to that experience. Demos, giveaways, appearances by celebrity chefs or makeup tutorials are all ideas that can be transferred online and livestreamed.

Also, building up a social community and letting its members have fun while celebrating shopping events strengthens your brand and boosts your inventory turns. Because after all, shopping is not only about the products, but also about what humans do with it.

Video and Virtual Experiences Build Excitement

Tech innovations can also help build excitement for the online shopping experience. Guided shopping is coming to the fore as people look for advice and ideas in a personalized, entertaining way. Video chats with knowledgeable associates can create a vivid impression for shoppers looking for credibility, expertise and authenticity. For example, consider featuring expertise from physical store experts (the way that Nordstrom does, for example) giving advice on clothing fit or home décor, on your online platform.

For the uninitiated, digital sales rooms are secure, centralized online locations where all parties can view relevant documents and other assets and collaborate on aspects of “the deal.” Again, it means the buyer enjoys a more tailored, personalized customer journey.

There’s fun in 3D configuration and visualization too Examples include building a mountain bike by choosing the parts, customizing a car’s wheel trims or visualizing how new furniture might work with different combinations of wall colors. 3D visualizations have been around a while but have evolved alongside extended reality (XR) technology so that spatial commerce is now a much more immersive experience.

The AI Boys and Girls in the Content Backroom

Of course, meeting expectations with fresh material or content can be costly. Copywriters, graphic designers and videographers all need time to generate content and are not cheap. You want them to concentrate on the more premium experiences for your ecommerce channels.

Next-gen AI-powered tools can generate simple but engaging ads with personalized messaging at scale and at speed. The cost of using such technology is also coming down all the time. Humans will still bring that spark of creative genius for emotionally arresting moments. No machine is going to replicate Chris Rock’s humor or supplant the creative department of a Madison Avenue ad agency.

However, AI can help with costly, time-consuming and mundane tasks around crafting engaging content that may require skill and some level of creativity. Coca-Cola has just announced it is working with consultancy Bain to explore the potential of the latest generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Dall-E to craft personalized ad copy, images and messaging.

Forward-thinking players will realize they’re not just in the retail business, they’re also in the ecommerce entertainment business. With the right tools, you can build a commerce platform that can easily be transformed into a virtual stage, bringing new value to customers and prospects.

Sebastian Hamann is co-founder and co-CEO of Shopware