In an age of hyper-accessibility, consumers are quickly becoming accustomed to having information at their fingertips. This is driving a shift in how they engage with brands and retailers: traditional marketing is losing its effectiveness as shoppers painstakingly research products on their path to purchase, making themselves experts in the process.
“Shoppers meticulously check reviews before committing to a product,” says Michelle Grant, industry manager and retailing expert at market research provider Euromonitor. They give themselves extra work “before, during and after” the purchasing experience because they feel “empowered by their knowledge and want others to feel the same.”
According to a Euromonitor report released in January, this trend is set to grow globally in 2019, as consumers increasingly examine their purchases and brand interactions – a result of social media’s constant circulation of information both good and bad. “Consumers rely on the expertise of their peers to make sure they get the best in a sea of sameness,” explains Grant. This puts considerable power in the hands of the consumer, and companies will need to adapt their strategies if they want to capitalise on the trend.
“The access to information and the ability to spread information means that consumers can be a brand or retailer’s best advocate or its worst nightmare,” Grant adds. She believes that they must therefore carefully consider how they project themselves: “Because everyone’s an expert now, companies need to determine their story—what do they want people to say about them when they are not in the room?”
So what’s the most effective way for brands to deliver their narrative? Euromonitor reveals that high net-worth individuals are most influenced by TV Commercials, alongside peer recommendations and friends’ social media posts. Of all the new forms of social media, video still leads in influence: in June 2018, Instagram reported its Stories video feature had over 400 million users daily, including brands. Moving image obviously remains a key marketing strategy, particularly in the luxury sector.
“The ability to spread information means consumers are your best advocate or worst nightmare. ”
According to Grant, companies should jump on this, using video marketing and social media to establish relevant and relatable brand stories - rather than as customer service or advertising tools. In the luxury sector Chanel has embraced this approach, sharing editorial and runway content on its Instagram page instead of traditional product imagery. “It’s done in a highly curated, aspirational way, with a focus on video – both in highbrow content and makeup tutorials for its beauty products,” Grant comments.
Chanel is not the only luxury brand to explore the opportunities which this changed landscape offers. In August 2018, French house Balmain cleverly tapped the virtual influencer movement by creating three fictional digital models to sport their latest collection. One model, Shudu, currently has over 157,000 followers on her own Instagram account, suggesting there is a growing demand for unique digital interactions and experiences.
Gucci is another brand innovating with its storytelling techniques: For Spring 2018, the brand launched an immersive video campaign with Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal. Blending art, culture and technology, it depicted the artist physically stepping into his artworks – reworks of classic paintings featuring the brand’s collection – ultimately bringing Gucci’s fantasy world to life. The brand took this one step further by introducing in-store installations which allowed consumers to play their own part in the campaign and interact with the artworks using AR headsets.
As savvy shoppers continue to educate themselves on their purchases, a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing is becoming obsolete. Grant believes that this shift towards a higher standard of online experience is a permanent change driven by millennial and Gen-Z consumers, so adaptation for brands and retailers is vital.