At the beginning of the pandemic, brands were forced to figure out how to create or strengthen their digital experiences on the fly. Almost one year later, consumers have come to expect a first-rate experience 100% of the time — no excuses.
The following brands have successfully reimagined or strengthened their digital experiences for both lockdown and post-vaccine worlds, and their examples prove that brands are becoming ever more creative in how they approach experience innovation.
#1. Brands are using AR innovatively to reach out to housebound consumers
Gucci became the first brand to sponsor a global AR lens on Snapchat, enabling shoppers to try on shoes virtually. Athletic clothing retailer Hoka One One (part of the Deckers Brands portfolio) also launched an AR pop-up shop on Snapchat last summer, with “shop now” buttons facilitating immediate purchase. The strategy allowed Hoka One One to reach out to Gen Z and Millennials (33% of whom have increased online spending during the pandemic) and boosted sales significantly. And consumers haven’t just been staring at their digitized feet. PetSmart leaned into gamified, educational AR via Snapchat: consumers participated in a quiz and then watched their face gradually morph into a reptile depending on their responses.
Key Takeaway: AR is emerging as a legitimate, consumer-friendly tool to rethink and enhance digital experiences — either by offering fun, engaging ways to educate or making the purchasing process easier.
#2. Virtual design services are helping shoppers purchase big ticket items
Crate and Barrel had already been offering virtual design services pre-Covid, but recently upped the ante with virtual shopping appointments. In-store associates guide the consumer via video chat: they might (for example) describe how a particular wine glass or mug feels in hand. The brand is also re-training service teams to be product experts to boost consumer comfort purchasing big ticket items such as furniture and upholstery. Consumers are offered improved navigational paths and relevant content online. And when the digital realm really isn’t sufficient, the brand sends shoppers free fabric samples.
Key takeaway: Consumers need guidance in order to feel comfortable shopping out of their comfort zone — and that means your digital CX must also include a human element.
#3. Curbside pickup has expanded beyond grocery stores
Sam’s Club developed a Concierge App in less than a week last summer to enable consumers to purchase essential goods in bulk. A “shop from your car” service for vulnerable groups allows consumers to place orders from their car, with employees shopping and loading their vehicles for them. Non-grocery retailers expanding curbside pickup options include Dick’s Sporting Goods, which allows shoppers to place an order online and collect their items within an hour.
Key takeaway: Even post pandemic, consumers will appreciate the ease and convenience of curbside shopping. Which naturally leads to a good question brands should consider: what other pandemic-inspired aspects of the shopping experience might your customers want to see continue?
#4. Virtual travel and watch parties become the new norm
The travel industry has taken a huge hit during the pandemic, so innovative companies have been inspiring armchair travelers with virtual tours. Travel company Walks, for example, offers Tours from Home, during which expert guides explore popular tourist attractions in person and provide commentary. Tours include “Wonders of the Sistine Chapel” and the (very timely) “In Sickness and in Health, a History of Plagues.” In addition, the company is offering a voucher for post-pandemic in-person vacations. Meanwhile, Chrome extension Teleparty allows people in separate locations to watch movies together digitally. Teleparty syncs individual screens to enable people to chat online and feel connected even when watching a show thousands of miles apart. Experiences like these
Key takeaway: The desire for things like travel and in-person gatherings are innate, and people aren’t going to give them up forever just because they grew accustomed to their digital counterparts. However, digital travel and watch parties offer unique benefits, and could stick around post-pandemic. The same is likely true of other quarantine-centric behaviors and attitudes.