How to Bring Back the Fun to E-commerce in 2021

Many online shops focus mainly on convenience and findability. Boring! The challenge for direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands is therefore not only to make online shopping efficient but also attractive. A plea for experiential e-commerce.

E-Commerce Is Boring

According to research by payment provider Klarna, only 9% of online shoppers find online shopping “fun”. We may have become much more accustomed to online shopping in the past year, but what about the quality of that experience? E-commerce scores points in terms of convenience, of course, but few people describe online shopping as truly enjoyable.

The Challenge

Right now, too many brands are still focused solely on providing convenience to their customers. So the challenge for Direct-to-Consumer brands in 2021 will be to make finding and shopping online as appealing as it is efficient. To do that, brands need to invest in experiential e-commerce platforms.


The trend of experiential e-commerce originates from the movement of Experiential retail, which started in 2010. Experiential retail is about an in-store experience that goes beyond just shopping. This is also known as retailtainment.

It combines entertainment with retail shopping, where consumers in a store can not only shop but also experience and do something extra. A great example of retailtainment is Nike’s brand store in the United States. A retail store that not only showcases products but also has a basketball court, taking try before you buy to a whole new level.

Experiential E-Commerce

Experiential e-commerce is a translation of experiential retail to the online world. It is a strategy that aims to strengthen the bond between brands and consumers through a virtualized, browser-based shopping experience. In simple words, a cool e-commerce experience that uses, for example, 3D content, storytelling, AR/VR and/or AI.

These e-commerce websites aim to create the best possible online experience for discovering and exploring products, bringing back a bit of fun to online shopping.


Experiential e-commerce can go as far as Google’s Umami Land. This is a virtual theme park that celebrates Japanese food culture. The experience teaches you about a variety of Japanese dishes. Besides that, it also connects you with the local restaurant in your area that serves those particular dishes.

Experiential e-commerce can also be less technologically advanced. Patagonia’s e-commerce website is a great example. This is an “ordinary” webshop but filled with films, long and short documentaries, interviews, and photo content.

In addition to being a great more traditional e-commerce website, optimized for product discovery and fast checkout. It also allows customers to dive into the ins and outs of the brand and its values by incorporating different types of content in the website.

Benefits of Experiential E-Commerce

One of the main benefits of experiential e-commerce is that it increases buyer confidence. The typical online shopping experience is based on product images or, if you’re lucky, a video showing the use or features of the product. Useful, but it doesn’t answer all the questions customers may have about a product. Augmented Reality, for example, allows consumers to get an even better idea of a product. This in turn leads to fewer returns.

Experiential e-commerce experiences also strengthen the bond between brand and consumer. Unlike TV and social media where almost only information is sent, experiential e-commerce offers an interactive component. And interaction leads to connection.

When you are able to scroll, click, listen and watch stuff about a product you become more familiar with a product and thus feel more connected to it. It’s the same principle as being able to try out your new shoes on a basketball court before buying them. The more confident you are in a product the more likely you will buy it.

Another advantage of experiential e-commerce is its unlimited reach. In-store experiences have the capacity and geographical limits. Online experiences don’t have those limits. This allows brands to reach and connect with a larger audience.


How to Get Started

When getting started with experiential e-commerce, there are 3 key elements to keep in mind. Start by focusing on interactivity.

Real-time interactivity is what sets experiences apart from online content. It provides an element that adds the personal touch that is crucial to successfully translate offline retail experiences online. Whether people can try on sunglasses or shoes using AR, chat with experts or watch videos, interactivity is key.

Second, make it shareable. Shopping is a social activity. We may have forgotten that because of the pandemic, but it’s true. The social aspect is completely missing in online shopping. Brands should aim for a website, experiential commerce experience, that people want to talk about and/or can experience together with their friends and family.

Finally, stay close to your brand. The possibilities for fun and interactive e-commerce experiences are limitless. The key to success in experiential e-commerce is to stay as close as possible to the intersection of your brand values and your customer’s interests. If you want support from an experienced agency, you can contact Story of AMS today.

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