The advent of new technologies has created a paradigm shift in how consumers discover, research, and purchase products. From the moment a consumer becomes aware of a product to the post-purchase experience, technology has influenced every stage of the shopping journey.
One of the most significant impacts of technology has been the introduction of new channels of discovery. Social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, have become highly effective channels for reaching consumers. Through social media, brands can showcase their products in a highly curated and visual way to create awareness and interest. Influencers/content creators on these platforms have become immensely influential in shaping consumer behaviour, particularly with 44% of Gen Z consumers who indicate discovering new brands through social media.
Technology has also transformed the consideration stage of the shopping journey. Online reviews, comparison websites, and product videos have made it easier for consumers to research and evaluate products. Gen Z, in particular, is highly discerning when it comes to product evaluation, with 93% of them reading online reviews before making a purchase. It is essential for brands to ensure that they are delighting customers at every stage along the path-to-purchase and that a physical retail experience is part of an interconnected ecosystem rather than an isolated event. Furthermore, looking at loyalty building opportunities across the integrated customer journey rather than only in-store becomes important.
In addition to the online space, the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology is also having a great impact at the consideration stage of the shopping journey. As one of the topics of conversation at the 2023 NRF Big Show, creating immersive shopping and virtual try-on (VTO) experiences utilizing AR and VR brings a level of engagement to consumers by allowing them to try on products or see how they will look before making a purchase. On the shopper end, this more engaging experience can help simplify, accelerate, and validate purchases in a way that leaves shoppers feeling positive about the purchase and experience. On the retailer end, it helps to reduce product returns and the number of unhappy customers entering their stores.
Online marketplaces and mobile shopping apps have made the evaluation and purchase stages easier for consumers with just a few taps or clicks. Mobile shopping has become a preferred method of making purchases for 85% of Gen Z shoppers. This has created new opportunities for brands to leverage mobile platforms and create seamless shopping experiences that cater to younger consumers. This has also elevated the importance of designing physical shopping experiences that consider mobile technology and are mobile enabling.
Technology has had a profound impact on the post-purchase stage of the shopping journey. Social media platforms and review sites have made it easier for consumers to provide feedback on their experiences. Gen Z consumers (63%) are highly likely to provide feedback on social media, allowing brands that can respond quickly and effectively to feedback to build strong relationships with their consumers and create more positive shopping experiences.
Ultimately, technology will continue to transform how brands conceive, build, and deliver compelling, seamless, and rewarding experiences that delight shoppers and build long-lasting engagements with customers. As such, technology needs to be part of an integrated thought process when designing these experiences, so its role is purposeful in meeting customer needs while also delivering solid business performance.