LONDON: E-commerce continues to change consumers' expectations of the retail experience, as businesses like Amazon raise the bar in terms of service and delivery and put pressure on marketers to deliver across multiple paths to purchase in both the digital and physical worlds.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, Lucie Green, worldwide director of the Innovation Group, the futures and innovation think tank at J. Walter Thompson, observes that digital is infused throughout the buying process, making it difficult to separate e-commerce from shopping in general.

JWT's own research, for example, indicates that 83% of US consumers and 82% of UK consumers have shopped on Amazon in the past year.

"Amazon has become the gravitational centre of e-commerce to a degree not seen before, setting a baseline for what consumers expect from online shopping," she says.

So faster delivery times are now assumed, while click-and-collect is widely accepted.

But digital shopping is rapidly becoming about more than convenience, as innovative companies blend utility with experiential marketing, both on- and offline.

Selfridges department store on London's Oxford Street has launched a wellness platform, for instance, which includes digitally immersive yoga with the Yung Club.

Bricks-and-mortar outlets are also exploring how digital immersion can help create "retail theatre" in-store, especially for purchases that aren't simply utilitarian in nature – there's always Amazon Dash for those.

And as retail increasingly divides into the utilitarian and the indulgent, the need for stores to offer heightened experiences – whether that entails the physical format, emotions or entertainment, or all three – will become all the more important.

One reason is that so many people already spend so much of their working day in front of a computer screen – so that a physical interaction in a real store becomes, in the words of one observer, "the only place that can offer ultimate brand experience".

Brand activation will have to develop accordingly, says Green, with the use of artistic connections, avant-garde collaborations, ground-breaking science, neuroscience and more.

"Rising trends in experientialism of which retailers should take note are social-good endeavours such as volunteering with locals or building schools, and wellbeing, mindfulness, and immersive fitness," she says, adding that there's also a growing appetite for thought leadership events and hybrid festivals covering areas such as innovation, spiritualism, self-improvement and diet.

Data sourced from Warc