3 trends for retailers to explore in today’s multiplatform world

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In recent years, retailers have realized how closely their physical and digital shopping experiences are intertwined. Wherever consumers shop, they will find the digital in the physical and, thanks to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and other emerging technologies, something akin to the “physical in digital.

Our shopping experiences aren’t siloed, and forward-thinking retailers recognize that. However, creating solutions that drive sales and profits in this complex cross-platform world can be a daunting task. In 2022 and beyond, retailers should be looking at three areas in particular to invest in and test: the burgeoning metaverse; social commerce; and the buy now, pay later (BNPL) boom.

Dive into the Metaverse

The pandemic has pushed consumers towards e-commerce and accelerated the use of VR/AR technology in the shopping experience. Digitally sophisticated Gen Zs are aging and their purchasing power is increasing. Last year, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta and invested $10 billion in developing the metaverse. Currently, these virtual spaces belong to different companies, distinct from each other, and the metaverse promises to unify these spaces. If retailers fail to claim their right to the metaverse now, they can easily cede revenue to a more forward-thinking third party. This is what happened when e-commerce platforms took off 20 years ago.

Retailers need to invest, but also think incrementally. Consumers love innovation and have embraced it in just the past two years, but they also love familiarity. Each retail brand must consider its own strengths and the needs of its own customers to understand where to build on existing in-store and digital experiences and where to deviate from them. (But beware of over-investing in one platform, as the Metaverse will be a decentralized, cross-platform experience.) Identifying these current experiences will dictate where a retailer should start testing Metaverse experiences.

Social commerce goes beyond social

Social commerce is a natural response to consumers’ desire for convenience and efficiency – enabling consumers to make a purchase when and where they want. Social isn’t even as siloed as some of us think: 15% of time spent on social apps is actually spent on publisher sites in in-app browsers. There are reasons why social commerce was a $36 million market in the United States in 2021, and why it is expected to grow three times faster than “traditional” e-commerce over the next three years.

Part of the appeal small retailers see in social commerce – which they will also find in the metaverse – is its democratizing effect. Smaller brands have more access to more touchpoints with their customers – touchpoints that e-commerce giants cannot appropriate. And in many cases, small retailers are in a better position to provide competent and timely customer service than larger companies with massive customer bases and under-stretched service teams.

BNPL offers flexibility

BNPL is the fastest growing e-commerce payment method in the world. Part of BNPL’s appeal is that it allows consumers to purchase more expensive products and services without saving the full cost upfront or accruing interest on a credit balance. This is particularly appealing to Millennials and Gen Z consumers, who are more wary than older age groups of racking up more debt. Another advantage: paying smaller sums in installments is like any other subscription service, with which digital natives are very comfortable.

BNPL enables consumers to make purchases quickly, without the extra steps and extra pages that lead to cart abandonment. This limits the time the consumer has to spend away from the content they are engaged with. It can also be done easily across multiple platforms, across international borders, and with less reliance on third-party financial institutions than a typical credit card purchase. Retailers that haven’t adopted BNPL’s capabilities should do so now to keep up with changing consumer shopping habits.

Start moving forward now

Consumers want, and increasingly expect, to be able to shop at the right time for them, on the most convenient platform at that time. The evolution from siled VR/AR experiences to the unified metaverse highlights the importance for retailers to embrace an omnichannel strategy. And it follows that retailers are applying these trends to the advertising campaign needs and goals of their brand partners.

The emergence of retail media networks is timely, prompting retailers like Nordstrom, Dollar Tree, Kohl’s, Best Buy, CVS, and others to launch and expand their retail media networks. These networks allow retailers to provide brands with advertising inventory across the Internet, not just on their own sites and social networks. To harness the power of their networks, retailers need to take control of their first-party customer and product data. In a world where the future of identity remains to be seen, retailers need to leverage their data to reduce their reliance on giant social platforms to find the same audience at scale.

Conor Ryan is the co-founder and CIO of StitcherAds, a Facebook and Instagram marketing partner that helps retailers and agencies build comprehensive O2O marketing campaigns.

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