Digital merchandising has long aimed to replicate or even improve upon the real-world retail experience by providing real benefits to consumers using sophisticated analytics to understand purchase drivers.
True digital merchandising is a lot more than merely designing a pretty page; It uses insights to create a whole new shopping experience. It is a delicate blend of science and art that creates a digital environment aimed at stimulating consumption while keeping the consumer at the heart of the matter.
Having said which, for all the effort brought to bear on the subject for years now, nothing has had anything near the impact of Covid-19, on the digital shopping experience. The saying goes ‘You can’t appreciate what you haven’t tried’ and it has been proven decisively true in these times.
Hordes of newbie online consumers are experiencing digital purchasing for the first time and this has elevated the importance of digital merchandising to an all-time high. Offering consumers the ability to access products of all kinds and brands, easily compare specifications, price match, read reviews, easily return products and take a more informed decision than ever, the advantages of digital are becoming more readily obvious to those who had never experienced it before.
As a digital merchandising expert, it has become paramount to stay on top of the situation. In a volatile world, consumer behavior is changing at a pace never seen before and is changing in unpredictable ways. Tracking shifts in sales between categories based on global reports and situations, changing product offerings accordingly, highlighting the advantages of those which may be relevant to the prevailing situation, and staying ahead of the curve, are the need of the hour.
The lifestyle changes driven from this pandemic have diametrically shifted the consumer spend. Now, ‘Home’ is at the center of everything. It is the place where we live, work, shop, and play, so categories that enhance these experiences will excel. We need to ensure that we are constantly bridging the gap between consumer need, desire, and product offerings, in a manner that immediately appeals to the digital shopper.
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This requires a combination of business savviness, technological capability, and UX/UI expertise. Managing online content optimally and user experience for digital requires borderline coding skills based on the technology in use. And having a stable and scalable technology to manage unpredictable growth is critical to increasing digital business during this time. Retailers who are thriving in this scenario are those who have spent time, effort, and money investing in their digital infrastructure and ecosystem.
Those who put that investment off are playing catch up and are struggling to provide a seamless end-to-end digital purchasing experience – a disastrous blow to their brands given the circumstances.
On a more long-term note, Covid-19 has forced a large percentage of people into a more philosophical state of mind, questioning their choices in life and consequently their purchasing decisions. While brand consciousness has been a growing trend among millennials for a few years now, this situation has brought that to a greater population.
A population that is now more interested than ever in a brand’s purpose and its level of responsibility to both people and the environment in producing its products. This is now becoming a key purchasing driver and one that brands cannot continue to ignore. Here too, digital merchandising plays a key role in ensuring a consumer has that information in order to drive his or her purchasing decision.
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When it comes down to it, we are living in uncertain times and this is driving change in consumption patterns at an unprecedented pace. This provides an opportunity for digital merchandising to rise to the occasion and deliver value like never before. If done correctly, we can ensure that the large numbers of digital commerce converts stay within the fold, taking the digital retail industry to the next level.