The Future of Virtual Shopping & The New Era of Commerce

The past year has been hard, yet transformative. We watched brands embrace virtual shopping at a rapid pace and innovate to keep their teams going during waves of lockdowns. The companies we work with at HERO® have shown a level of creativity and resilience that has changed the game forever. It’s truly inspiring.  

As vaccines roll out and some lockdowns lift, it can be tough to imagine what the future holds. We do know one thing for sure: there is no ‘back to normal.’

It’s not a full return: it’s a new normal

The most recent predictions make it clear that what we will see is not a total return to stores: Globally, store traffic in 2021 is projected to be 63% lower than it was in 2019. And in the UK, online sales are anticipated to account for 30% of all retail sales once the latest lockdown lifts. Most expected this shift to happen over a decade – it’s now happened in under a year. 

Simply put: many shoppers are planning to stay online. We’ve already seen this trend play out in countries that have started to open up. In the US, brands that launched virtual shopping with Hero when the pandemic first hit actually saw a month-over-month increase of online shopper sessions when businesses started to open up across the country in May.

Personalised, human commerce is crucial.

Just because we’re seeing more shoppers shift to online does not mean they aren’t craving human connection. Shoppers today expect personalised, high-touch human experiences from their favorite brands.  It’s never been more important to preserve what makes in-person shopping experiences special online.

The role of in-store experts and physical stores are just as important today as they were ten years ago. Shoppers are over chatbots. They want advice from real people, and are 21x more likely to purchase after interacting live with an associate online.

It’s time to break down the walls between online and offline for good.

So what does all of this mean? Brands need to meet shoppers where they are, and simply can’t afford to have disjointed online and offline experiences. 

The future of commerce is one where the walls between brick-and-mortar and eCommerce no longer exist. 

Physical stores will exist for e-commerce, and the role of the store associate will evolve with it. That future is here, and the world’s leading brands have played a key role in creating it. Levis, rag & bone, Herman Miller, and over 200 global brands now use virtual shopping to bring the IRL experience online, driving sales and increasing average order value.

A new normal always comes with uncertainty. But the innovation and resilience that our customers have shown over the last year have proven to us that brands are ready to not just welcome but thrive in this new normal. No matter what happens next, we’ll be with you, every step of the way.

To learn more about what retailers can expect in the “new normal” register for our upcoming Humans of Commerce event. We’ll be joined by Katie Baron, Director of Brand Engagement at trends intelligence business Stylus and Emma Siveyer, Digital Products Lead at Three UK to dive into the trends and actionable insights you need to help your customers navigate life after lockdowns.

Join us on Thursday, April 22nd.

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About Hero®

Add the “IRL” experience to your online store, with the #1 virtual shopping platform. Headquarted in London and New York. Hero is trusted by brands including Levi’s, Nike, Herman Miller and LVMH.