The future shopper is here, now, by Wunderman Thompson’s Faysal Abdul Malak

Wunderman Thompson’s managing director, Faysal Abdul Malak delves into recent e-commerce research from the agency.

In the past, we defined e-commerce as an online purchase enabler that was transactional and functionally led. Today it is an integral part of the whole customer experience, which defines a brand’s essence. Moving forward, it will continue to expand and evolve to become even more entrenched in our day-to-day lives.

Now, more than ever, things are changing at an incredibly fast pace and brands are trying to keep up.

I recall, not long ago in 2014, we were helping clients put business cases behind developing an e-commerce platform and having to justify such an investment, with discussions centred on the technical aspects, along with debates about whether consumers will even engage with an online purchase transaction. Fast-forward to today, and we are designing the whole customer experience and commerce sits at the centre of that journey, which is not linear anymore.

This experience is what defines a brand. It truly dictates whether the brand will grow or be left behind.

‘Brand loyalty’ has shifted to ‘experience loyalty’.   

If we look at some of the findings from our recent in-depth study conducted in the UAE and other global markets, one can see how this holds true.

Innovative omnichannel shopping experiences are what shoppers crave, and they will not shop with businesses that don’t meet their expectations. 73 per cent say retailers need to get better at giving them the products, services and experiences they expect. 64 per cent prefer to shop with brands that have both an online and offline presence.

Consumers are hungry for digitally advanced ways of shopping, and businesses need to think outside the box about how to sell in an omnichannel environment that includes voice, contactless tech and even gaming. 66 per cent wish brands and retailers would be more digitally innovative

Marketplaces are doing it better through inspiration, search and transaction, and they’re successfully diversifying their offering. 42 per cent of all online spending is via marketplaces such as Amazon. 50 per cent find their inspiration in marketplaces; 47 per cent from search engines; 32 per cent on social.

Despite marketplaces dominating, D2C still has an important role to play – but there’s work to do. 70 per cent wish brands and retailers offered services similar to Amazon Prime. 15 per cent of all online shoppers said they were more likely to buy directly from the brand they wanted. 49 per cent said they are worried about Amazon dominating the retail landscape.

Brands need to focus on the customer experience above all else by having a unified omnichannel strategy that makes full use of the latest tech and tools. Every touchpoint of the customer journey, including brick-and-mortar stores, has a role to play in complementing each other rather than competing. And even though Amazon does it better, consumers prefer to engage directly with brands – so the opportunity is growing.

Keep exploring and building new partnerships while still driving your brand’s own unique offer. Think of it like a puzzle, with each piece having a role to play and coming together to form the bigger picture.

I believe the next few years will be both exciting and bright for brands. Just think of all the possibilities for brands in the virtual world and the role of commerce. The combination of creativity, tech and data will enable them to be even more relevant in consumers’ day to day lives.

And marketers need to capitalise on this by getting ahead of the game rather than continuing to do more of the same. Drive inspiration, be relevant and continue to push the boundaries while maintaining a cohesive approach. After all, the future shopper is here now.