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Future Retail View: Content is king of unified commerce

By Miya Knights, Publisher | Wednesday May 24 2023 | UPDATED 24.05.23

Retailers, such as Hotter Shoes, River Island and Very. are using engaging, immersive and interactive content for conversion and data gains, writes Miya Knights, Retail Technology Publisher

Tech-driven trends, such as mobile, social media and “shoppertainment,” are reshaping customer expectations, according to leading retailers at an exclusive event last week. 

The event, hosted by technology consultancy greyhairworks!, featured senior IT and content panellists from UK apparel and footwear retailers, Hotter Shoes, River Island and Very.

They confirmed that shopping habits are evolving at a rapid rate, fuelled by digital and turbocharged by the pandemic. But they also revealed the opportunities from such adoption.  

Emre Fadillioglu, Co-Founder and CEO of event sponsor, Storyly, set the scene, highlighting how 29% of consumers want their shopping experiences to be more entertaining

Content conversion at scale

Fadillioglu told attendees gathered at the Manchester Technology Centre: “Social media is the place for content. But retailers and brands struggle to convert to sales at scale.”

In fact, only 4% of consumers purchase via social media, where video-based ecommerce shoppertainment can boost product discovery and cart building, as well as conversion.  

As a user engagement platform that embeds full-screen, interactive, and shoppable stories in mobile apps and websites, Storyly can also facilitate a more personalised experience.

The power of engaging content and personalisation was also underlined by two senior content representatives from digital retail brand owner, The Very Group.

Enhancing creative efficiency

Very is using the replatforming of its ecommerce sites to overcome content creation challenges and better personalise the shopping experience for its customers. 

Mark Stocker, The Very Group Senior Creative Manager, explained how the business had turned to artificial intelligence (AI) based image generation to create digitised models.  

He explained: “Sample delivery was delayed during the pandemic, so we used Looklet to photograph models using a green screen and superimpose clothing onto their image.

“While creatives can be quite sensitive about the quality of imagery, we found it made no difference to conversion.”

Adding the personal touch

Shaun Brennan, The Very Group Senior Creative and Content Manager, added moving to an ecommerce platform that allowed for more easy integration had also helped with content. 

“We are also building a headless CMS system to manage inspirational and informative brand content, removing the need for technical teams to produce content,” Brennan said. 

Stocker also said a project to enable shoppers to choose a ‘body buddy’ and see clothing images of models that best reflected their own body type had increased conversion fourfold. 

These experiences also mirrored those of representatives from River Island and Hotter Shoes, who joined The Very Group content specialists in a panel discussion. 

Integrating digital in-store

Will Rise, Hotter Shoes Chief Technology Officer, described how the retailer’s older customer base has embraced an in-app augmented reality based try-on service.

He also stressed how important it was for Hotter to integrate the digital experience via a browser or app with the physical retail proposition it offers customers in-store. 

Adam Warne, River Island Chief Information Officer, shared the work the fashion chain had undertaken to expose digital content to shoppers using the store changing rooms.

“The thing to remember is that there aren’t online and store customers,” Warne said. “They’re all just customers and don’t want to be treated any differently from each other.” 

Data and customer strategies

All of the panellists agreed immersive, engaging and interactive digital content not only helps to drive sales, but that it also provides valuable data on who they are and what they want. 

Using such data to run retail and brand businesses better was a key benefit called out by a number of vendor speakers that form part of the greyhairworks! solutions providers portfolio.

AI platform provider, Peak, was keen to point out how any personalisation initiatives require the retailer or brand to have good customer data, particularly in relation to segmentation. 

Brand advocacy platform, Duel, called out the focus on increased customer acquisition costs (CAC). They advised using existing customer bases to build loyal communities instead.

Enhancing discovery and checkout

Product discovery platform, Merchstack, was on hand to remind attendees to make sure their content was optimised to inform the search, browse and discovery shopping phases. 

Fashion analytics provider, Stylumia, showed how easy it was now to put competitive sales and promotional data in the hands of designers and buyers to better serve customers. 

Finally, fraud protection and chargeback assurance provider, Signifyd, stressed how content-based work to convert customers could be wasted when declining valid transactions. 

Registration for the next greyhairworks! event, Getting more from less, is open. It will be held in London on 29 June and focus on how to thrive in the face of current market challenges.

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