These are some of the conversations I’ve either overheard or been involved in lately:

  • “If you’re not selling via e-commerce, you’re nuts! You’ve missed the bus.”
  • “Since lockdown, I spend my life on takealot.com. It’s my new favorite place to shop”
  • “Shopping online is so much more convenient, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to shopping in a mall.”
  • “I love the way websites suggest other items for me depending on what I’ve bought.” 
  • “I hate the way I’m retargeted online. I’m sick to death of AI telling me what to buy.”
  • “I miss shopping with my friends.”
  • “I need to experience what I buy, I like to try on, feel and get my friends opinions on what I buy. I just don’t get the same from shopping online.”

What’s the consensus?

Yes, it’s a total mixed basket of opinions. Adapting to changes in the world happens in waves. The companies and entrepreneurs who adapt early, take the biggest risks but often reap the biggest rewards by listening and understanding what it is that their clients want and how their needs are changing. They act quickly to develop a solution to new problems that may not have even surfaced yet.

Slowly but surely the news spreads and the idea starts to permeate the brains of other individuals, in waves, who are then further split into two categories: The Trend Followers – “I think they’re on to something here” (rather late than never) and those who resist the change and often are left with a failing market and no clue as to why. – “But it’s always worked for us?!”

A similar pattern happens with buyers. There are those that adopt new behaviors and trends quickly, those that gradually follow the trend (majority), and those that are more resistant to change. In order to stay ahead of what your clients actually want and know how to adapt your business to their ever-changing needs, you need to keep an ear to the ground at all times.
The biggest problem people face is that they are too quick to focus on the top few points in this article – the positives, especially when the majority are saying them, and don’t pay enough attention to the smaller issues and concerns.
If you look at the bottom three opinions about shopping online, the common thread is the physical experience. Now while that may be difficult to replicate in a virtual environment, I immediately think of some brands who are getting it right.
I follow two small, local brands on Instagram who sell fashion.
@kheper_sa or Kheper, a sportwear and loungewear online retailer that focuses primarily on women of all shapes and sizes, gets it right by keeping their audience engaged. They show behind the scenes clips on their Instagram stories and release polls and question stickers, prompting their audience for feedback. Immediately, the viewers feel as though they are part of the brand. They get to see how the products are made and what the various fabric options are, building the hype that leads them to head straight to the site to be first in line for new launches.
@bellegrayclothing’s Instagram page is managed by the owner of the business who tries on every new item and records videos to allow people to see exactly how each item wears, flows, and gives them a better idea of what the product would look like on. This replicates (as closely as possible) the same experience one would get in trying on clothes with a friend in a physical store. The risk of buying clothing online is reduced which makes the commitment to purchasing easier.
Nimisha Jain recently featured on a Ted Talks podcast, discussing “The joy of shopping and how to recapture it online”.
In this 12 minute talk, Nimisha compares traditional shopping to online shopping a gives 3 examples of international companies who are getting it right in emerging markets.
I highly recommend it for more insight.