Shopability: the 3 fundamentals you need to know

Making it easy for a customer to find items to purchase may sound obvious. But consider the emotional journey that so much shopping involves and it’s clear that shopability is anything but. Which is why it’s important to centre any shopability strategy on customer experience, and to do so with an engagement-first approach powered by an ambition to create not one sale but repeat custom.

The world is changing, fast

In today’s mobile-first world, shopability has evolved significantly beyond a simple “Buy now” call to action or a single “Click here” technology solution. In fact, Gartner reports that 64% of consumers now believe customer experience is now more important than price when choosing a brand or store. 

This evolution is being driven by a number of factors. 

The rise of digital has fuelled “liquid expectations” – customer expectations of an experience that’s as friction-free as a great digital experience across the board, whatever the product category, and into the physical world.

The rapid rise of ecommerce, with its drive towards seamless transactions and the promise of free delivery, has also contributed to this. In 2021, global retail ecommerce sales hit $4.9 trillion, according to eMarketer  – a figure it forecasts will grow by 50% over the next four years. 

Social commerce is booming. In 2021, global social commerce sales reached $492 billion – a figure Accenture expects to nearly triple by 2025. Brands not already doing so should therefore prioritise social commerce as their next shift. Voice commerce, meanwhile, is now poised to take off. 

In fact, some 70% of consumers said in a 2019 CapGemini study that they expected to progressively replace visits to a store or bank with their voice assistant within the following three years. 

Global issues, events, and movements, such as climate change and Black Lives Matter, meanwhile, have impacted customers’ motivations and behaviours, making them pay closer attention to the activities, viewpoints, and stands taken by brands and the wider organisations they are part of. 

Then COVID-19 and now the cost-of-living crisis are forcing many customers to re-think their priorities and what they perceive as “good value”.

As a result, customers have never wanted more information as they consider if, and what, to buy. 

The three fundamentals of shopability

In the light of all this, we believe an effective shopability strategy should be underpinned by three fundamentals. 

1. Know your audience
The first is a deep understanding of your customer and where they sit in the digital universe.

First of all, this means getting to grips with the right technology to use – the “right” tech being the tech your customers are using. The online platforms they frequent – a social network, for example; the devices they use – likely to be mobile in today’s mobile-first world; or the tools they use to engage, participate, and interact, such as gaming.

Then, it’s about offering shopability where your customer is – using DTC or ecommerce capabilities on owned content elsewhere, such as on Instagram or TikTok, rather than attempting to drive them back to your own website. And it’s about re-thinking and evolving the transactional experience – by gamification, for example. 

Online bank Monzo, one of a growing number of brands using TikTok to offer financial advice in a fun and unexpected way, is a great example of this. 

2. Give them an experience to remember
The second fundamental is an experience-first approach. This means surprising and delighting customers through experiences that allow them to interact with a brand before showing them how and where to buy. 

Surprise and delight come from great storytelling – the connective tissue that has brought people together for generations and which can drive the authenticity and longevity that all brands crave. And they are most likely to come from the seamless experience of connected narratives, where storytelling is consistent across different platforms or formats but made relevant for each. 

Brands that dive into personal stories about their products and customers, so demonstrating more than just a transactional approach – like Virgin Airways, with its recent “See the world differently” campaign, and Nike with its recent “Play New” work – are leading the way on social media. 

3. Understand the journey with a data-led approach
The third fundamental is ensuring you have a deep understanding of your customers’ journey so you can build your connection with them at every digital touchpoint, deepening engagement and building trust. It comes from a data-led approach, involving data and insights to back up any strategy; without both of these there will be wastage and low return on investment. 

The shopping landscape continues to change, fast. And at times, it can feel overwhelming. Yet brands can stay ahead. 

Meta and Amazon may very well become regular stores on our high streets as the balance between bricks and mortar and digital is redefined. But it will always be experience-driven, personalised shopping, powered by tech and based on real customer understanding, that will surprise and delight customers, regardless of where they finally make their purchase. 

Dan Whitney is managing director marketing innovation team, Europe + global creative services lead at Allison+Partners


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