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Nathalie Nahai: The biggest difference is context – online, we expect frictionless, personalised experiences where we can research and purchase remotely at our own pace. In virtual settings, most products come with ratings or reviews, giving us more information and points of persuasion to contend with than in a physical store. When it comes to products like clothes, AR apps already exist to measure and project a new pair of sneakers onto your feet, but many prefer the physical experience of trying on items in a store with the personal care of real brand representatives.
NN: This is a fascinating question, and connects with how we relate to other individuals. When we form relationships with others, we come to recognise their characteristics. Yet we also know that how we express ourselves depends on the context in which we're interacting - someone leading a boardroom meeting might behave differently in a one-to-one conversation. The same is true for brands - the way they communicate with customers will depend on where that exchange is happening. In a physical store, brand representatives will have greater impact on the customer's experience. Billboard ads are more one-directional, like broadcast media. Online, the possibility for more granular interaction means the brand must balance expressing its own identity with addressing customers’ preferences (as tracked through their historic behaviours).
NN: I think there will be a longer-term impact as we emerge from lockdown, especially since consumers have become accustomed to the convenience and price points of online shopping. Conversely, as the serpentine queues outside Primark (UK) show, there is also a large appetite for in-store purchasing, especially of consumer goods. Brands that create compelling, immersive and delightful physical experiences stand to gain a lot of attention and custom as shops re-open.
NN: Consumer expectations are changing. People expect greater control over their shopping experiences, as well as personalised content and frictionless interactions. As these expectations carry over into physical stores, bricks-and-mortar shops will have the added challenge and opportunity of providing more sensory, immersive experiences for their customers, which some organisations - like Changi Airport with its Jewel - are well placed to deliver.