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China’s ecommerce market has been bolstered by ‘retailtainment’; what does the equivalent look like in the U.S. market?

China’s ecommerce market has been bolstered by ‘retailtainment’; what does the equivalent look like in the U.S. market?

Concerts paired with shopping events, deeper personalization and classes are on the horizon, the experts say.

Good afternoon! In today's edition, we asked the experts to think about how the ecommerce landscape will evolve and the extent to which they see experiences playing a role. Questions or comments? Send us a note at

Kristen Gall

President at Rakuten Rewards

While the term ‘retailtainment’ might be a bit new to us, the concept is one that we’ve seen grow in the U.S. for quite some time. Experiential retail is becoming increasingly popular – especially as ecommerce surges amid continued concerns around in-store shopping during the pandemic. These in-store experiences are meant to draw in shoppers and interact with the space in unique ways. The Tesla store is a perfect example of this. While it is a brick-and-mortar location, it’s more of an experience that shoppers can live through before designing and purchasing their car. Other stores have followed suit in similar ways like the Nike House of Innovation where different cutting-edge technologies (e.g. VR/AR) and brand partnerships come to life in an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. We’re going to continue to see retailers come up with unique ways to attract customers in-store and lean in on the entertainment that comes with engaging experiences.

On the other end, the ecommerce landscape is becoming increasingly engaging and personalized – which lends itself to unique innovation in the “retailtainment” space. Livestream shopping is a perfect example of this. As people spend more and more time on their mobile devices and interacting with influencers on social media, brands have found innovative ways to have unique branded shopping experiences that are engaging and authentic by tapping into the power of influence. Livestream shopping delivers an inherent level of sincerity and authenticity – influencers aren’t reading off a script, and they’re able to interact more with their audiences. Just as the in-store experience is becoming more entertaining, online shopping is following suit.

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Tory Brunker

Senior Director, Product Marketing at Adobe

As customer engagement with retailers increasingly moves across a variety of channels, customers have higher expectations around their interactions. In turn, many have also become more open to exploring different shopping options that are personalized to them.

As the bar for personalized experiences rises, retailers are going to have to continue to redesign the customer journey to ensure they are providing thoughtful touchpoints with customers that recognize individual interests. Retailtainment can be the next leap forward for retailers in this area as it allows brands to deliver personalized experiences to customers in new and authentic ways.

In China, brands are tapping into livestream video on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest to create interactive shoppable experiences for buyers. Brands find that this is a highly effective way to reach audiences and many experience higher conversion rates since shoppers can chat with other viewers, ask the host of the livestream questions about the product and click directly on the screen to purchase it.

In the U.S., retailtainment is still in its infancy. That said, we are seeing early versions emerge as retailers are starting to pair concerts with shopping events, sell celebrity-endorsed apparel and offer private styling sessions with top designers.

It will be interesting to see how this trend evolves in the U.S. as there are so many opportunities for retailers to create memorable in-store and online shopping experiences with retailtainment. Especially now that augmented reality and virtual reality are gaining in popularity.

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Tracy Sun

Co-founder & SVP of Seller Experience at Poshmark

Social commerce will continue to be one of the driving forces behind ecommerce growth in the U.S., as consumers – especially millennials and Gen Z – seek out peer-to-peer platforms like Poshmark not only to shop, but also to forge connections with others. The pandemic only accelerated this trend, with consumers prioritizing shopping platforms that allow for meaningful connection, not just a transaction.

At Poshmark, our focus on community from Day 1 has led to a more social, more connected shopping experience. On average, Poshmark users spend 25+ minutes a day in the app – more akin to their use of social networks than ecommerce sites. Our unique social shopping features make it easy for our global community to connect with one another through billions of social interactions, which in turn are driving everything from brand discovery to brand engagement to purchasing on our marketplace. In November 2021, we found that social interactions on the platform had grown 37% year-over-year from 30 billion in 2020 to 38.9 billion, a sign that people continue to crave these social interactions as part of the shopping experience.

When people join Poshmark, they don’t just connect with styles and brands they love, they connect with the community. This is the future of shopping: more social, more connected and more fun.

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Jess Huang

Partner at McKinsey & Company

The idea of shopping as a social activity or as a fun, entertaining activity isn’t anything new in the US. If we rewind the clock, it wasn’t that long ago that we saw high schoolers hanging out at the mall after seeing a movie. The idea itself is not new; the difference is that today, retailers have a unique opportunity to shape retailtainment, taking into account the rise of e-commerce, omnichannel expectations, and the blurring lines between products, services, and experiences. Our research shows that 71 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76 percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. ‘Retailtainment’ is a natural evolution to meet consumers where they are, creating a lasting customer experience and a unique ‘personal touch’.

In this context, retailers should decide on a number of areas, including social shopping, partnerships, and live commerce. There are meaningful opportunities to leverage social media across platforms, as users and consumers create user-generated content. Retailers must also determine their strongest partnerships to create sustainable and impactful customer experiences through content and connections. One of the leading trends in China that hasn’t been fully borne out in the US yet is live commerce. If they have not already, retailers should consider adopting this trend, taking into consideration what the future of real-time social shopping could look like and the part they want to play. This doesn’t mean full adoption of live commerce overnight, but a test-and-learn approach to strengthen customer engagement.

Ultimately, customer experiences should be unified at both the brand level and individual consumer level. To get there, retailers must have a 360-degree view of the consumer and a combination of consumer analytics, insights, and experience design.

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Will Hayes

CEO at Lucidworks

At first the pandemic had retailers scrambling to livestream to home-bound shoppers. The goal was to sell products to shoppers behind a screen. Into our third year of the pandemic, the scales have tipped. Retailers are prioritizing experience and values with sales as the happy side-effect.

Luxury companies like Louis Vuitton and Porsche have a community of collectors that would love to experience a behind the scenes of how the product is made. Maria Sharapova could take us behind the scenes in a Porsche factory, mixing Guards Red paint, and then selling a pint of the paint as an NFT in the metaverse.

For brands with brick and mortars like Athleta and Lululemon, the best online commerce experience will be an extension of the in-store experience, incorporating that brand ethos through classes and community forums that connect knowledgeable staff and celebrity ambassadors with shoppers who share the same love for yoga, running and fitness.

Grocery can also get in on the fun. Jamie Oliver sells his pans at Whole Foods; why not have him do a livestream while hawking his wares and sharing a coupon code to buy the ingredients online to be delivered to your door? The consumer’s goal is to cook a delicious meal; connect the dots for them with the recipe, ingredients and tools.

I expect socially responsible commerce will be even more front and center with companies prioritizing environmentalism across social content, website faceting and product promotion.

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J. Bennett

SVP of Operations and Corporate Development at Signifyd

Walk through any high-end shopping district in the U.S. and you’ll see ‘retailtainment’ in its full glory. Look at what Lego has done at their flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York. It’s part hands-on children’s museum, part entertainment venue, part playground, and yes, they sell Lego sets. Think of it as plastic-brick and mortar. There are plenty of other examples, the Harry Potter store in New York, Starbucks’ Chicago Roastery on Michigan Avenue, pop-up retail adventures in — name-your-city.

They offer unique, terrestrial, retail experiences. But the buying happens everywhere and in many forms. Same-day delivery. BOPIS. Curbside pickup. Drone delivery. Retailers have been stepping up their experience game for years and more recently retooling their operations and tech stacks to provide buying from anywhere and fulfillment in every way. This is all part of an accelerating transformation of retail that will neither slow down nor end anytime soon.

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Ronen Samuel

CEO at Kornit

The metaverse is a digital environment, fueled by AR, VR, and XR technologies, where online and offline experiences seamlessly blend. In the world of e-commerce, this opens the door to many creative endeavors and exciting initiatives. The future of virtual shopping and ecommerce will enable brands to create endless products and limitless designs without having to overproduce or place further strain on the environment. With an endless virtual catalog, customers can choose any design they like and have it produced locally and shipped to them directly. Our vision is to make fashion more affordable, sustainable, and local using digital print technology – in the process, we are also modernizing the entire supply chain of the fashion industry.

In the next five years, consumers in the metaverse will be able to try on clothes using their own virtual avatars, which we will be able to customize and move between platforms such as Fortnight and Facebook. These “metahumans” will also be able to predict what your friends and social network are wearing, what you bought, and what you should buy in order to stand out.

As the metaverse grows, consumers will still deeply care about real-life fashion. While brands and developers are working to create digital collections, consumers will still be able to shop and wear these garments in reality. RTFKT Studios, recently acquired by Nike, is a company that pairs designed sneakers with their digital NFT representation for the perfect online-offline fashion experience. As these worlds blend, this will create business growth opportunities on all fronts. Shopping centers will have their own metaverse version and shoppers will be able to enjoy more accurate, remote fittings; shops that exist both online and off; and AR software that allows us to see the same outfit in different colors and fabrics without having to try it on multiple times.

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