Engaging ecommerce experiences

All ecommerce experiences are the same right? Home page, category tree, product pages, checkout (oh, and don’t forget good old site search!) – pretty it up and you are done! Right? No!

One of the reasons I think headless ecommerce is so interesting is to go beyond such experiences. I don’t think the traditional model will ever go away – it is tried and true. But product experiences can be a lot more engaging. Here are a couple of examples.

Web Stories

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One interesting format for engaging experiences is Web Stories (the new name for AMP Stories). You can develop richer experiences that work particularly well on mobile devices. Web Stories can incorporate video, animations, text overlays and more via a HTML page. Web Stories leverage a subset of AMP components combined using a series of layered pages. Since they are just HTML they can be viewed in a standard web browser.

Web Stories I think are best to tell, umm, a story! That is, take the reader through a journey. It can be an easy way to have a more engaging video experience with next/previous page buttons, animated text overlays, call to action buttons, and so on. Cooking recipes feel like one nice usage (e.g. 10 Tips for the Perfect Burger), but Web Stories can be used for any story you would like to tell (e.g. Why is Luxury Fashion Expensive?).

For ecommerce, Web Stories can be used to tell a story about a product. Show inspiring imagery or demonstrate the product’s practical usage. Then put call to action buttons on pages to take the user to a product page on your traditional ecommerce site.

360 Experiences

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Another experience is using 360 photography. I blogged on this a few years back, but I recently came across the Virtual Dior store that was a nice example of an experience that helps reinforce brand perception. You can experience entering a real store online, look around in 360 degrees, click on highlighted products, watch videos, and more. (This site was built by Obsess.)

It can be fun to browse around and explore the brand and products. There is something about large, bright imagery that is just more appealing than a straight product page. I think it appeals to our emotional side, whereas product pages tend to appeal more to our practical side of understanding options (sizes, colors, price, etc).

Discovery Only or Through to Checkout?

For both the Web Stories and the Dior store above, if you decide to buy something you are taken to a good old traditional product page. That does help keep costs down – no need to build a different cart, upsell/cross sell tools, checkout flow, and so on. But a next level of engagement would be to consider a “buy” button that takes your payment and completes checkout without leaving the more engaging experience. 

This is where technologies such as Google One Tap for smooth sign-in and sign-up experiences could help, then Google Pay for securely remembering the user’s payment details. Make sure the user is registered on your site early so you know who is on your site, allowing you to remember details such as shipping addresses more easily.

Conclusion

Does engaging mean higher conversion rates? That of course depends on your customer base. A “fun” site can also help reinforce your brand, even if it does not convert as well. It is important to understand your goals before exploring new experiences.

Clearly COVID-19 has had drastic short term impacts on stores. But what does the future hold? I personally do not doubt that physical store traffic will return, but will it return to the levels it was at before COVID-19, or are online experiences going to claim a larger share of ongoing sales for businesses? How should merchants optimize their online presence?

There is obviously no single answer to this question. But thinking about different ways of engaging with customers online I think is going to be a part of the new normal.

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