How Experiential Commerce Can Take Your Online Store to the Next Level

Originally written for Visually, the world's marketplace for visual content.

Experiential commerce, as its name suggests, often combines immersive and engaging web experiences with traditional online shopping. With more and more consumer dollars going to online stores every day, it’s important for brands to make their eCommerce sites as robust and engaging as possible. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Online shopping was born out of convenience – shopping from the office, the couch, or even the restroom is easier than driving to a brick and mortar store, sorting through isles to find the right product (that might not even be in stock), and then driving back home.

As marketers look towards content to drive sales and bolster their brand, many are ignoring a huge opportunity in their already existing eCommerce sites. By turning away from the standard rows and columns of products and instead toward bespoke experiences that truly engage consumers, eCommmerce can regain some of the magic it had in the era of the first online stores.

Building engagement

Only 11% of retailers have embraced experiential commerce tactics, according to research by CoreMedia. The term is rapidly shifting and evolving, but the key difference between experiential commerce and the typical online store is the engagement factor – online retailers that are able to engage consumers beyond just a few scrolls and a mouse can stake a claim to the strategy. The minority who have incorporated experiential tactics in their online stores are seeing enormous returns. Warby Parker, which was recently named Fast Company’s most innovative company of 2015, allows customers to do a virtual glasses try on via their webcam and then download the image or share on social media.

Trunk Club has also embraced experiential commerce to diagnose customer preferences. Trunk Club pairs consumers with personal stylists who select, curate, and source clothing that fits their needs and style. To diagnose what kind of clothing consumers need, Trunk Club utilizes a survey that is a survey only in name. By putting a premium on clean design and eye-catching pictures, the onboarding process feels decidedly unlike a traditional customer preference questionnaire.

Experiential commerce is not just a way to improve the experience on your existing eCommerce page. It is also an opportunity to take advantage of the most cutting edge advertising and technology trends. The fashion retailer Asos hosted a massive Google Hangout showing how female sneakerheads can pair outfits with the iconic Nike Air Max trainers. This was the first ever “shoppable hangout,” using Google+’s new in-hangout display ad unit. It allowed viewers to go directly to products on the Asos site while the hangout was taking place. And, for those who missed the hangout live, the video now lives on YouTube where the brand uses in-video links to drive traffic to the site.

For retailers, eCommerce is a must. Without an online store, you can expect sales efforts to fall flat. But to truly drive brand lifts and reach new consumers, experiential commerce is the way of the future – just ask Sky Mall how they’re doing.