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Market Voice 7 Sep 2021 - 5 min read

Retail reimagined: The new immersive world of retail engagement – and what CMOs can expect when 5G hits

By Zoe Cocker - Head of Brand & Yahoo Creative Studios ANZ
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Younger audiences with higher purchasing power are expecting digital experiences to be innovative, seamless and to enhance their lives.

Retail technology is surging forward at a breathtaking pace and businesses need to be awake to the opportunities that are presenting themselves. The likes of Big W and Lululemon are already getting ahead of the pack. Zoe Cocker, Head of Yahoo Creative Studios (formerly RYOT Studio), explains how CMOs can avoid missing the boat.

In recent years there have been some major leaps forward in retail technology. It turns out that for just $12.99 we can now pick ourselves up a pair of genuine Gucci sneakers online. The catch? These ‘kicks’ are ‘Virtual 25s’ and they can only be worn in the virtual world. 

Gucci isn’t the only big name brand at it. Others like Burberry and Balenciaga are leading the way by creating digital garments, building custom video game experiences to release new collections, and developing virtual try-ons.  

While these innovations may feel out of reach to the everyday Australian retailer, they are providing a clear gateway into a future retail world that we can all build towards.

Whatever your budget, the important fact to remember is that younger audiences with higher purchasing power are expecting digital experiences to be innovative, seamless and to enhance their lives. That’s why it’s never been more important to adopt a future-focused approach. 

We may still be in a 4G world, but by looking at the potential of the 5G world, businesses can set themselves up for success. Even if they aren’t quite ready to hire their own Head of Innovation just yet.

Embracing tomorrow’s tech today

One certainty of the dawning 5G era is that we will see vastly improved connectivity for both businesses and consumers. In the coming years, data speeds and processing power which dwarf our current standards will be a huge enabler. Marketers need to be thinking seriously about how to harness the power of this technology to meet customers where they already are. 

In my role as Head of Yahoo Creative Studios, we’ve spent the last two years leveraging 5G as an innovation platform to build immersive experiences for consumers and brands. What I’ve learned through this process is that people are on the hunt for tailor made solutions. More than anything, they crave convenience, personalisation and entertainment.

As the pandemic has created online fatigue, brands are being forced to develop new ways to excite consumers. There now exists a huge opportunity to provide them with better, more immersive experiences and it’s one we should all be seizing.

In order to do this in the retail sector, CMOs can start by looking at both their physical and digital spaces. The question to ask is: how do we bring elements of one realm into the other?

Creating an online and offline mindset

In the physical space, there’s one very good reason for businesses to test out their digital capabilities. Consumers have already become enamoured with the work of early adopters. 

Hyper-personalised shopping experiences and intuitive product offerings are fast becoming expected behaviour for retail brands. So it’s wise to look at ways to enhance the physical experience via innovations such as wayfinding technology, smart shelves or personalised digital screens based on user data. Late last year for example, Lululemon invested $500 million into smart mirror technology when they saw a 17 per cent sales dip in bricks and mortar stores.

Likewise in the digital environment, marketers should be doubling down on the customer experience to create new forms of engagement. 

Innovations like digital pop up stores, shoppable video experiences, virtual fashion and digital try-on enable customers to gauge how something will look on them. Retailers that have started to invest in this space tend to see less online-returns and higher conversions, especially on high value or large items.

Earlier this year for example, we worked with BIG W on an AR campaign to allow customers to virtually place products from the store's Toy Mania range in their own spaces to view objects at scale and in real-time. 

Through bespoke AR ads built on our proprietary Immersive Platform, customers were able to see what some of BIG W’s exclusive online items valued between $200-$800 would look like in their yard – all without leaving their home. This experience gave BIG W shoppers a whole new way to shop and the campaign resulted in over 400 pre orders for the range.

Yahoo’s own research shows that 24 per cent of adults in Australia have already tried out immersive shopping experiences. You can expect that number to grow substantially in 2021.

For so long as we’re in this situation, and long after the pandemic is over, customers will expect the same level, if not a higher level, of interaction from brands. AR and VR-based shopping experiences will continue to proliferate. 

It’s never too late to innovate

If your business wants to genuinely embrace these new capabilities, but doesn’t know where to start, don’t be discouraged. After years of working in this sector, I’ve found it to be a welcoming, collegial environment. And you’re only ever a conversation away from finding a willing partner to help take your business to the next level. 

Partnerships are our lifeblood, they help us stretch the capabilities of new technology such as blockchain or Web AR for our clients. Our trailblazing tech partners help us achieve new possibilities whilst ensuring we stay honest to ROI objectives. 

Even the biggest brands are leaning on their partners to educate, inspire and activate. It starts with understanding the people and the challenges involved and then resolving them through innovative solutions. 

It’s for this reason that brands should turn their focus towards this new age of connectivity. The 5G future is here now, and the next generation of storytelling and ad experiences will ultimately define your brand’s relationship with audiences.

Even if your budget doesn’t allow for major investment there are strategic steps that can be taken. You can start to future-proof your business by ensuring you’re getting the most out of the current 4G capabilities. 

One thing we can be sure of is that consumers will always be one step ahead of marketers in terms of adopting new technology. So while we might still be in a 4G realm, remember, the future belongs to brands who are innovating.


Piqued your interest? Contact Zoe on to find out how Yahoo Creative Studios can help elevate your brand into the future. 


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