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EDITORIAL On the brink of out Amazoning Amazon, if the marketing is in tune

Image: Jeramey Lende/Shutterstock

Shoppers are slowly starting to head back to High Street. Not necessarily in droves, but the trickle is building. This is, naturally, eroding online sales. Already this week, German online fashion giant Zalando has seen Q3 profits dip as many of its lockdown customers head to their more traditional real-world stores to try and buy.

Similarly, research into the beauty sector finds that, now that shops are an option, more consumers of these products are keen to get in store to try and buy rather than take their chances online.

The shift back towards ‘normal’ has begun, but things won’t go back to how they were before the pandemic: too much has changed. However, online retail is on the brink of its own upheaval. Where the High Street crashed as the pandemic began, so now the balance is shifting again – and online retailers need to be ready for it.

While focussing on a more omni-channel approach is still the main game in town for retailers – merely tweaking the balance between physical and digital again as things change – there are some other more fundamental changes afoot, the outcome of which are still very much unknown.

The news last week of Facebook looking to create a metaverse – and renaming itself accordingly to Meta – is going to have an impact. In fact, it is already having an impact. If we look to China, where ‘super apps’ – apps through which a user can do a multitude of things such as book a restaurant, find a ride, buy a gift, find a date and pay for it all, all from WeChat – are already growing in popularity.

Facebook’s move is an attempt to tap into this. Given that it and its Instagram offshoot, already act as quasi-marketplaces and ad channels, shows that this is perhaps where social media sites are going to start to erode traditional ecommerce players.

Payment company Klarna certainly thinks so. It has revamped its app and looks to be putting a toe in the water of ‘super apps’, creating an app that not only offers payments options such as ‘pay in three’ and BNPL, but is also agglomerating offers and, most interestingly, adding a raft of retailers – including Amazon – to its app.

While still a work in progress – I tried it, you need to do an awful lot of logging in to sites that want to fire up the app you may already have, but once you are in it’s pretty neat.

For shoppers, the Klarna app offers a tempting glimpse of how someone may out Amazon Amazon, if they can bring together everything in one place. Klarna may not become the household name that becomes synonymous with ecommerce, the idea it promotes surely will.

An app that brings together all retailers – and marketplaces – in one, searchable place, that can find exactly what the shopper is looking for, at the best price, apply all discounts and loyalty points, sort out delivery and handle payments – even BNPL or split payments – is surely going to be a winner.

The key to its success will be marketing and that too has seen a shift in recent months. While SEO and personalisation are all still key tropes of ecommerce marketing – along with the growing use of affiliate marketing, but that is for another day – where shoppers are being inspired to buy is not as clear cut as you might think. Music video service Vevo has surveyed 1000 users and found that among Gen Z, music videos have a disproportionate influence on what clothes people buy.

It also has a growing impact on other purchase decisions they make around lifestyle and even where to travel.

And it won’t just be Vevo: younger shoppers are being culturally stimulated in a very broad range of ways and knowing what these are – and keeping pace with how they change – is going to be vital to marketing retail services. It is ultra-personal.

It is early days, but this Vevo survey indicates that retailers may need to once again re-evaluate what and how they market to different groups. With Adobe finding that many shoppers find traditional marketing strategies ‘creepy’ and ‘annoying’, retailers and marketers are perhaps going to have to look at radical new ways to get their message across.

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