What’s Next For Online Shopping?

Shopping is fun. People go shopping with friends, for occasion, to discover something new, for retail therapy or just because. Discovery shopping, where consumers don’t know what they are going to buy until they encounter it, represents 70% of offline shopping.

Retailers have optimized for discovery shopping for centuries with exhilarating in-store experience, exclusive shopping events, entertainment and personal connections. Offline the focus is centered on Brand message, product showcase, and customer loyalty.

Online shopping has been falling behind. Most e-commerce stores are based on a vending machine model. You either instantly find what you’re looking for or leave. The search-based interaction model with its focus on functionality and usability is optimized for transactions and task based shopping at the expense of product discovery and impulse purchases.

The use of computers to buy goods has transformed shopping into a rational and deliberate process relying more on the brain than the heart. Arranging products according to categories triggers task shopping – customers find what they need or leave. Telling a beautiful product story motivates browsing – shoppers will hang around.

Serendipitous shopping has as goal to offer consumers a wider range of choices versus today’s shopping sites with their sole focus on price and features. Most online ecommerce sites use a search-based interaction model to help visitors find products of interest.

Future sites will not; they will offer a window-shopping experience, where a shopper spends time looking and interacting with each visual and each visual is designed with the emphasis on telling a product story and to instill the urge for an impulse purchase.

Pinterest is leading the way with an experience that allows social users to keep up with trends and to shop for ideas. The Pin action or button extracts from sites or uploads images and places them onto Pinboards that can be shared, favored and followed.

Pinterest however hasn’t come up with a strategy that places the services in the category of e-commerce marketplaces. The service lacks the basic functionality of a shopping site such as a catalog of product, a shopping cart, price comparison, or a buy button.

I am a big fan of what Facebook has achieved with the Facebook’s Like button and the Open Graph protocol and believe that like button as an one click expression of affection for a brand or product is a great signal to be exploited by a shopping engine.

What will online shopping look like in future?

Shopping Next

For me it is a combination of Pinterest, Facebook’s Like ecosystem and shopping catalog with same day delivery:

  • A highly visual experience that encourages browsing and discovery through product stories focused on trends and shopping ideas.
  • A social button similar to the “like” that connects consumers with brands and their products and turns web pages into product objects that can be aggregated.
  • A shopping engine that aggregates products and generates product stories based on the “like” signal besides offering the typical shopping comparison and transaction features.

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