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Conversion optimisation is great, but to some extent it works on the premise that customers know what they’re looking for. Ok, checkouts, calls to action, merchandising should always be finessed, but optimisation is a means of squeezing more from specific intent.
But what if moving the customer towards the magpie psyche is the future of selling online?
A new ecommerce model is emerging and it works on the premise that customers can be encouraged to ‘bag at will’. All retailers need to do is surface rarer, quality products that are socially proven and most importantly look great.
Amazon is changing
Amazon Collections is Amazon’s Pinterest imitator and is an admission that the social, sharable element is missing from Amazon’s uber slick catalogue. Essentially, Amazon isn’t fun, even with the wishlist.
The recommendation and retargeting engine is very powerful, but the users don’t call the shots. The hope is that Collections will kickstart the magpie instinct when browsing a sexy hotchpotch of favourited products.
The new way: user filtered, socially proven magazine
Curating great products that tempt the impulse buyer is the foundation of some promising ecommerce start-ups. Like Collections and Pinterest, they have a magazine feel.
Tothetops.com is a French start-up that allows users to choose ‘celebrity experts’ whose product recommendations the users want to follow. This is billed as a personalised shopping team.
So if you decide you’ll be exceedingly warm to anything hawked by Patrick Vieira, well you can just sign up to his recommendations.
The site still lets you view the entire product list using the category menu on each page of the site; expert shoppers are simply one way of exploring the product set.
The site has Facebook login, so you can comment on things, share stuff, and it’ll all keep churning anyway in your friends’ feeds.
At the moment there are only ten or so experts, each with a few thousand followers. As the set of experts grows along with the product list, the experts will grow more useful as they become necessarily more niche.
Fancy is more radical. The product set is displayed as an almost infinite scroll in search of stuff to buy. In fact, when I used Fancy in Chrome, there was no scroll bar, so I couldn’t escape back up to the product filters without scrolling back past all of the shiny things.
Innovative filters are one of the keys to Fancy. When you’re bored of scrolling random items you can browse by category or use a search term as usual, but if you’re buying a gift (and we all know it’s more fun to give), Fancy gives a filter on the age of the gifted, and their relationship to the buyer.
Fancy also offers a box service, where mysterious and magical stuff is sent to customers in a box.
Underlying all this is the need for great products. The curation is in picking the right products and tagging them efficiently. One of the almost unique features of Fancy is its referral scheme. Users aren’t simply relied on to share this admittedly sharable content, they are incentivised with a referral fee tracked with a unique URL.
Generation X,Y,Z and a mindset change
Of course, the difference between these sites and ‘traditional’ shops online is that Fancy and To The Tops sell an aggregation of products. The entire service is to some extent curated and there are no high street stores.
Shopping at John Lewis, for example, one is aware there will be plenty of exclusive products, and the concept exists, still, of the website as the physical store placed online.
Part of the mindset change for generations is the intuitive finding and selecting information online. Generation Y and Z are used to social networks, where one doesn’t have complete control.
They are used to a variety of web formats, and don’t need a store to ‘feel’ like a real life shop in order to pay money. They buy stuff on phones and in apps. This change in mindset goes back as far as topping up a mobile at a newsagent.
As Amazon dominates the online market for a wide range of commodities, retailers in the lifestyle space are squeezed into offering an exciting experience. Serendipity is the user reclaiming leisure over straight spoon-fed consumption. Truly retail therapy.
What can ‘traditional’ online retailers do to cash in on serendipity?
If you’re a retailer and you don’t think Fancy-esque product display is going to suit your online store, you should be making sure what you do have is visually stunning and easily sharable.
This doesn’t just mean having big old product images and a tweet button. It can include:
- Innovative filters that allow a mix of serendipity and structure e.g. for mum, or for 18-30 year olds.
- User generated images. Encourage these to be posted to social networks and make sure you resurface them on your website if they’re any good. There’s no reason product pages should have that crowd-sauced Fancy feel.
- Adding endorsed lines, curated by an influencer, following the To The Tops model. This forms a more exciting category page for the customer that wants a break from the staid nav bar.
- Social log-ins allowing customers to share what they’ve bought, but to truly stand-out, try incentivising this sharing, with referral links for a future discount, or even dollar bills y’all.
- Making sure you are signed up on sites like Fancy, so you know when the public are demanding your product, and you can make it available on these platforms.
- A ‘spotted’ section where your products are photographed in the wild or being used by celebrities. This is most appropriate for higher ticket retail. These pictures can be included in category and product pages, as well as a magazine style feature on site.