The Future of Shopping (and what it means for CSS)

Shopping is increasing online with many high-street shops offering no delivery charge and providing added incentives to ‘buy online’. The demand to be visible is therefore becoming increasingly competitive and the need for a Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) Partner that can help you advertise your products to drive sales, is becoming more crucial.

In this blog post, I’ll explore recent changes to how consumers are shopping and what this means in the world of CSS.

Has online shopping changed forever?

Throughout 2020, many news outlets revealed that consumers were becoming ‘armchair tourists’ and watching footage from destinations they couldn’t travel to due to travel restrictions. Virtual reality and AR headsets grew in popularity as individuals looked for escapism from the security of their own home, virtually exploring ‘museums such as the Louvre, the Vatican Museum, and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam’. But what does this mean for businesses? A more connected shopping experience.

Other immersive technologies like 3D TVs and Google Glass have perhaps not caught on as well as expected, but this kind of technology is gradually being refined. Facebook’s Oculus Rift is growing in popularity and has been described as ‘the most versatile headset around’, so many more brands are sure to follow.

Whether VR headsets catch on or not, retailers can already use existing technology to provide virtual tours of clothing racks and goods for potential customers, which makes shopping from home more engaging and simpler; it’s pretty appealing in Winter too. For CSS, this means that Ads may be viewed differently or searched through a virtual shopping platform, so optimising content for VR now is a great way to prepare for the future of online shopping.

Comparison Shopping Service Ads are a fantastic way to get customers to take notice of your products and once they click on these Ads, they are redirected to make a purchase. But what if the way we use technology changes? Not long ago, Google Maps was essentially a digital map, but now we use this technology as GPS when we drive and can even turn the handset so that Street View moves as we do. Google recently added an AR function to the maps, which means we can ‘look through’ the phone (using the camera) and see the path we are walking down with interactive direction arrows appearing on screen – check that out HERE. This shows how technology is becoming more interactive (as with VR shopping) and so Shopping Ads are likely to become part of an increasingly interactive shopping experience over time.

Customisation of shopping will be everywhere

Shopping experiences are about consumer choice. Some customers want the latest trends, from new brands and some want a traditional service (usually in person) from trusted brands they are loyal to. Understanding these needs is essential for attracting a wide group of shoppers. But can a company be all things to all people? They can with customisation. Customisation can be anything from product offers on items that suit certain demographics, to suggested items in an online shop based on browsing history.

This is likely to go a step further soon with the introduction of ‘digital fingerprints’, which are sets of shopping criteria unique to each shopper. This won’t just mean targeting film aficionados with signed script-books or triathletes with the latest carbon fibre wheels, it will mean customising the whole shopping experience. For CSS, this might mean a preferred font or image style for each customer when their Ad results appear. It could mean understanding the keywords which resonate with each customer, or just prioritising their favourite brands in search results. The more specific the customisation for each user, the more likely they are to find what they want. This is likely to mean more advanced technology over time from your CSS Partners and a higher number of sales from each search, as customers get exactly the products they want, in the format they prefer.

Trust and reliability are key for your reputation

The last few years have seen concerns raised around several major data leaks and GDPR has highlighted the need for data security, so consumers could be forgiven for losing trust in online shopping. However, a recent report showed only 5% of EU residents decline cookies and it’s projected that 2021 will see 2.14 billion people shop online across the globe , so trust is still there, which is great news for online retailers.

Despite this, it’s crucial to address any security concerns your customers have, so showing how you handle their data is crucial in a world of ever-increasing security legislation. Getting this right makes you first choice over your competitors, so ask your CSS Partners about their use of product data, keep your product listings accurate and in return your business will continue to grow alongside its great reputation.

Shopping on the high street will change

While online shopping is going to grow and grow, it’s likely that people will always want to visit shops. Despite this, there is scope for online retailers to use shops to drive traffic and for well-known high street brands to make better use of online sales through turning their shops into ‘experience centres’.

It’s not just online that customisation needs to occur, because in-store experiences make a real difference to increasing footfall. Obviously, a shop cannot change its appearance for every customer who walks through the door, but luckily, it’s AR to the rescue once again.

Companies can make in-store shopping experiences more rewarding and customise them to the needs of customers, by having points in the shop where an app can be used to overlay AR images to an on-screen view of the shop. If you want to understand how this can help you, then Zara’s AR app is a great example. In this instance hovering over display stands will show an animated model wearing the clothing you select, so you can envision how you will look when out and about. Another advantage of this kind of technology is that if you own a physical shop, it’s still possible to drive sales to your online store and make the most of online offers to increase spending for each visit.

Positive customer experiences drive sales

Online or ‘bricks n clicks’ type shopping experiences are great for engaging customers while targeting them with the right products, but increasingly, memorable shopping experiences are being used to add new levels of excitement to shopping.

Some of these are about testing the product, as with Land Rover’s Experience Centres (which are off-road tracks where potential customers can test the vehicles as they were intended), while others offer exciting retail experiences like Madrid’s ‘Xanadu’ shopping centre, which draws customers in with added extras including a ski slope and aquarium. The appeal of both models is that they offer a memorable day out, which customers associate with the brands and products that they try on the day. While CSS is about getting people to see the right Ads, creating excitement around products means they are more likely to search for these items, so in-person experiences can increase online sales and will continue to become a major tool for retail success.

How to make retail changes all work together

Shopping has always evolved, from early outdoor markets, to shops, to shopping centres and now online, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that shopping is continuing to evolve. With changes to data-use, customisation, and the shopping experience both online and in town centres, it’s obvious that companies need to understand these changes to utilise them as opportunities for growth.

What’s great about all these different areas of retail is that collectively they have the potential for a symbiotic relationship where shoppers still go shopping and still enjoy doing so, but primarily shop online. Each year there is a news story about the death of the high street, yet shops are still open, so for online brands it’s important to understand and adapt to what their shoppers want and how to get consumers to use online shops more.

Using the latest technology is a great idea but using it in a way that works seamlessly with your business model is just as important, so take what you truly need and keep evolving, because with the right research and investment in technology you won’t just be future-ready, you’ll be future proof.

To find out more how CSS can increase your future sales, get in touch HERE

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