Connecting emotionally: what’s in-store for the 2017 digital customer experience

Our recent Christmas research showed that more people were frustrated with retailers’ online experiences than with stores.

ABA Christmas Research with 3,000 UK consumers (% agree)

Yes, there’s still the usual gripes around on-the-day usability of search and filter and menus which hampers our sense of #Control and on-the-day conversion. However there’s increasing desire for digital experiences to connect in other ways, through delivering personalised, immersive experiences with content that helps us connect with the brand and instantly see its purpose. We’ve summarised the key website trends set to define the 2017 digital customer experience and how they can connect emotionally through the eyes of our 5Drivers model.

More authentic and Instagram-worthy imagery and video

As Instagram continues to grow at force it creates a new benchmark for brands. There’s growing understanding that anyone can create beautiful, emotive visuals, and little excuse for brands using Shutterstock-style or bland imagery. Furthermore studies show that using real imagery can actually improve website conversion. Consumers increasingly expect either flawless, awe-inspiring visuals, or a real-life, less polished look.

More conversation – via content and bots

Chat bots became big news in 2016 and whilst they definitely had their teething problems (see our review of the H&M bot) there’s big hope for them in 2017 as AI-powered versions become more sophisticated. Domino’s has been one of the first brands to embrace bots fully, having just launched its Messenger chatbot which allows you to order from the full menu through Facebook. Whilst it’s easier to get language right for a pizza order, other brands will have to work hard in 2017 to integrate this tech so that purchasing homewares or fashion and beauty products feels a more natural conversation with more sophisticated recommendations.

Meanwhile, more human-touch content will undoubtedly get even bigger in terms of driving site traffic through social media and in helping brands build a connection with consumers through their passions, not just through the products they sell.

Immersive VR and 360 video content

2016 was the first year that many VR concepts became a reality beyond the world of gaming. Brands like John Lewis and Diesel used VR to create a buzz around new campaign and store launches, whilst Marriott used VR to immerse us in its exotic locations and suites.

In terms of websites, augmented reality experiences and 360 video content are increasingly enabling sites to become more immersive – transporting users to experience a completely new world. We predict more sites will catch up with the beauty world, where many sites and apps allow shoppers to virtually transform themselves with a new look.

Personalisation gets smarter and more surprising

Providing the right content in the right context remains king in the digital experience. Personalisation enables this but the truth is that many brands are still playing catch-up – with site pages littered with products which are already bought or completely irrelevant. Personalisation has to get smarter and feel like it fits more seamlessly into the digital journey e.g. everyday household items you’ve looked at on Amazon look incredibly out of place in your beautiful Instagram feed. On the flip side, for retailers that have made heavy progress here, there’s significant opportunity to start surprising shoppers with ideas that nudge them out of their comfort zone and can even transform their lives.

A place for connection – with influencers and like-minded people

We think brands will look to involve consumers more and more in their digital experience – helping them feel part of a brand and community, not just providing a detached, transactional site. Retailers need to more seamlessly connect their sites with social media and invite users to get involved in developing content around their product experiences.