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EDITORIAL Estée Lauder, Toolstation, Frugi, Lazy Susan: how retailers are going for new experiences

Shoppers want more in-store tech when shopping for fashion (Image: Shutterstock)

Shoppers want more in-store tech when shopping for fashion (Image: Shutterstock)

Jimi Hendrix was all about the experience and, here in the ‘almost-post-Covid’ era, so too are retailers. In fact, as 2022 gets underway and brands and retailers start to look at how to stay competitive in the year ahead, many are already ushering in new ways to do everything from run their websites, to offer low-friction payments to using the metaverse.

Estée Lauder has become the latest brand to step into the metaverse – and we are only in week three of the new year – pushing its Too Faced outlet arm into the virtual world, gamifying shopping, creating a “fully functioning economy” which mirrors real-world products, and developing transferable avatars.

The idea is that shoppers invite their friends to meet them in the metaverse store and play and ‘shop’ and, one assumes, get inspired to buy virtual goods and then go into the real world and buy them for real.

As with all things metaverse right now it’s very much a work in progress: no one knows for sure if this is just a novelty way to interact – a sort of message boards idea for the 21st Century – or whether this new way to interact and shop could actually find a way to make money.

With more people shopping online, the need to make it more interactive and offer some of the social aspects that real world shopping has long provided is likely to see the metaverse idea stick. It just perhaps needs to find its métier – but with so many retailers, brands, games companies and, of course Meta (Facebook) all working on it, that can’t be far off.

Estée Lauder’s team is certainly excited by it, with the company claiming that the move has reinvigorated the ecommerce team, offering a glimpse of the new way to make ecommerce immersive and interactive.

However, trying to offer a better customer experience doesn’t have to involve investing in the virtual world, there are more prosaic and equally as effective, ways to up your ecommerce game.

One area is to make omni-channel payments low-friction. Another trend for 2022 is the shift towards ‘pay-by-bank’ payments, where shoppers can simply pay for goods with an instant account-to-account bank transfer. This offers speed, ease and an unrivalled level of security and is starting to gain some big name supporters.

Toolstation has become the largest online retailer to offer this service – albeit to its wholesale and trade customers – with the aim of making payments quick and easy.

This is perhaps the most important aspect of ecommerce right now: frictionless shopping and payments, typically the biggest sticking point and where most sales are abandoned, is due a revamp. This sort of open-banking inspired payment method could be just what is needed.

Other moves to aid experience can be found pretty much in all aspects of ecommerce. Shifting to mobile first is obviously a key move – and one that is being exemplified by student discount site UNiDAYs, which has become one of the first retailers to create an iOS widget for shopping.

Sustainable kids clothing brand Frugi is also looking to enhance its experience with a move to mobile-first, along with enhanced search, better content and more engaging reviews. This has been delivered through re-platforming, as has improvements to pricing, international reach and marketing at furniture seller Lazy Susan.

Both Lazy Susan and Frugi have gone down the route of re-platforming and, as more retailers come to renew their back-end, expect more of them to see their choice driven by how they can deliver such experiences.

And the need is growing: marketplaces, which can offer merchants much of this technology off the bat, are growing in popularity, with many consumers now using them exclusively to shop. Just wait until they start using the metaverse…

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