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Evolving shopping habits of consumers has led to the steady rise in e-commerce. Over the last two years, however, as consumers who previously had little or no engagement with online shopping were forced into new behaviours, the adoption of e-commerce accelerated beyond all expectations, with many of those who have embraced online shopping not wishing to turn back.

This has been particularity notable for essential items across food and beverage, homecare, personal care and the beauty sectors, putting a spotlight back on the customer journey and questioning perhaps the traditional role of packaging as a direct means for brands to have the ‘all-important’ shelf presence and communicate their stories to consumers.

The way in which consumers search for items online has evolved too; from visual search commerce to voice command, and Direct to Consumer (D2C) email-enabled commerce. Brands are responding to this shift in consumer behaviour by enabling customers to access their products in multiple ways, with better omnichannel alignment and more joined-up brand experience.

Discoverability in online shopping

Despite the convenience and sheer variety that online shopping offers, consumers are losing the element of discovery – the experience of scouring the shelves for their usual product or brand, only to be enticed by the attractive packaging of another; or being persuaded to try something new through a strategically placed offer. E-commerce sites go some way in recreating an element discoverability, such as the ‘Before you go’ suggestions and even through some of the more unusual product substitutes offered in online supermarkets. However, the repetitious scrolling nature of online shopping means that consumers lose attention quicker than when being faced by a physical wall of products. Shopping is, after all, a three-dimensional, multisensory experience!

This poses an opportunity for e-commerce sites and brands selling direct to consumers to rethink the browsing experience for online shoppers. Could consumers select their ‘shopping mode’ based on their rational or emotional needs, for example: ‘convenience shopping’ (direct and fast) versus ‘browse shopping’ (serendipitous)?

Packaging for cookies

Shifting role of primary packaging

If FMCG brands are potentially competing for customer’s attention through online means rather than on the shelves, is there an opportunity to redefine the role of primary packaging? What if brands in the supermarket no longer needed to consider labelling and size restrictions on packaging due to shelf height, and took a far more stripped-back approach to their primary packaging? What if they were to remove the bold, attention-grabbing colours and graphics they are known for, saving that for their online communication, and redirect their focus on packaging solutions that are minimal, more sustainable, and potentially more cost effective?

Conversely, what if the role of primary packaging for ecommerce was focused solely on protection, distribution, and low environmental impact? What would this mean for the customer experience if they received their McVitie’s biscuits or Fairy Liquid in unembellished packaging in their weekly food delivery? How could brands still retain a visual presence in their customers’ homes? There is certainly an opportunity for brands to explore a refill-offering that is optimised for e-commerce; balancing low-impact primary packaging solutions with branded reusable containers that hold meaning as well as longevity for customers.

A woman unboxing her delivery parcel.

Embracing the double unboxing experience

With more and more FMCG products being delivered to consumers doorsteps, premium brands should consider how they could make a lasting impression when selling direct to their consumers, by aligning the unboxing experience of secondary and primary packaging with their overall brand essence. While the functional needs of secondary packaging are paramount – strength, protection, lightweight, material reduction, easily recyclable, frustration-free – the inside of that packaging is valuable brand ‘real estate’, an opportunity to create little ‘wow’ moments for customers.

Customisation through e-commerce spans beyond the product itself and brands should also explore how the e-commerce personalisation experience can expand into physical touchpoints. Imagine a customer ordering their premium skincare products online and opening the brown cardboard postage box to discover a customised graphic or message to them on the inside. Or could brands take inspiration from AI-personalised shopping experiences online, and print bespoke product suggestions and promotions based on a customer’s purchasing and search history on the inside of the secondary packaging, to align physical touchpoints with the digital experience?

Discover, connect, conceive, deliver

So where should brands start? The most effective way to understand consumer behaviour and where it’s heading in the future is to take a ‘Zoom-in, Zoom-out’ approach to product and service development. Before going forward, brands must pause and really understand and analyse their current customer experience journey across various channels and customer touch points. What are the moments of delight for customers? What are the pain points? Crucially, where are the opportunities to align the digital and physical to create a more connected experience?

At PDD, our multidisciplinary team combines Human-Centred Design methodologies (Zoom-in) to gain a deep understanding of consumers, their unmet needs, desires, and challenges; along with Design Insight (Zoom-out), to uncover the broader consumer, market, design, and technology trends. By combining these deep and broad perspectives, we help consumer brands drive innovation from ideation through to product and service development, ensuring all decisions are grounded in real and tangible insights.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you create an even more compelling consumer experience, please get in touch!

Way too many brands forget to include elements that affect human senses into their marketing campaigns, which force us to perceive their actions solely in terms of words and images. It is almost needless to say that we are surrounded by a multifaceted reality that impacts our senses, making it possible to live vivid and rich experiences.

Science has proven that the more senses stimulated, the better chances for brands to be remembered, because they switch on more parts of our brain. One could not have failed to notice the dramatic transformations e-commerce has undertaken in recent years. Whether used for recreational benefits or more serious purposes; multi-sensory technology embedded into the retail scene shows how smell, taste, sight and sounds can be converted into revolutionary innovations.

Stores as showrooms

Consequently, we have come to realise that bricks-and-mortar stores stand as showrooms where customers can get an idea of the products’ physical attributes. In the meantime, digital stores have acquired different meanings, as customers perceive them as ‘hubs’ where they can browse across various rooms and looks, selecting preferred items to watch videos of, review or have delivered at home or in store. The ever-increasing popularity of digital devices was quickly to usher in a new dimension of consumer purchases, called ‘visual commerce’. Studies unveiled that 67% of customers agree that the premium quality of the visual content is even more important than the item description and ratings.

A digitalised revolution

Latest technological advancements have made it possible to generate visually stimulating customer experiences across all touch points, adding new extents to how people make their purchase choices and purchasing decisions. In other words, the future will provide us with endless opportunities for everything to be clicked, scanned and bought. The idea of being able to take a photo of a pair of glasses as you walk by a window display and purchase it the next time you enter the store has comprehensively been taken into consideration.

Facial recognition

Speaking of glasses, visual commerce is already using virtual reality to create fitting rooms where people can upload a facial shot online and see which glasses style suits their features the best, according to their face shape or outfits.Google Glass AGCO

The multi-sensorial e-commerce opportunities do not end here, as brands came up with revolutionary and personalised buying solutions. Shops in Berlin have already made unusual purchase methods available, where a customer’s face is linked to a specific payment option. Eventually, the transaction is completed at checkout by simply scanning the face.

On the same note, face-recognising systems in China can now authorise payments, provide access to facilities and even track down criminals. Commonly referred to as Face++, the software is already being used by several money transfer and ride-handling apps that only use the face as credentials. Face++ highlights over 83 points on people’s face and the distance between them stands as a trusted means of identification.

Face++ software

The future is now

So what happens when a similar technology is integrated in the fashion retail environment? Would it not be great to be able to feel the touch of a delicate satin scarf or the scent of at bergamot-infused fragrance we see on our screens just before making the actual purchase?HaptX Gloves

HaptX Gloves propose a solution exactly to this limitation that seems to have kept the online retail market at a steady point. Announced in November 2017, HaptX Gloves are the world’s only haptic wearable that bring human touch to the virtual reality. ‘What really sets HaptX Gloves apart is the unprecedented realism they deliver. Our patented microfluidic technology physically displaces the skin the same way a real object would when touched, closely replicating its texture, shape, and movement.’  Said Jake Rubin, the Founder and CEO of HaptX Inc.

What else is in store for multisensory e-commerce?

Organisations will increasingly feel the need to address each individual’s needs as efficiently and personally as possible, in order to keep up with their ever-changing and fast-moving lifestyles and demands. As the virtual and physical worlds fuse even further, the greatest challenge for B2B and B2C players will lie on mastering the ‘predictive commerce’, which will turn the ’30 minutes delivery’ into a tangible reality, highlighting the importance of adjusting the offerings to the ‘want-it-now’ clients’ expectations.

For more information on multi-sensory design take a look at our most recent articles below