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The dawn of the metaverse has me excited about e-commerce

From treasure hunts to virtual worlds, the E-Commerce Jury President weighs in on innovation in shopping online

Illustration by Lauren Morsley

Resh Sidhu was fascinated by e-commerce from the very beginning of her career. Captivated by the refining of the digital shopping experience, she has honed her skills working on projects for Biden’s presidential campaign, Samsung, L’Oréal and Coca-Cola. Now Chief Creative Officer at Barbarian in New York, she is at the cutting edge at one of the most exciting and fast developing sectors in the creative industries. Sidhu embraces everything about working in this innovative aspect of advertising — here, the E-Commerce Jury President for 2022 explains how we’ll be buying things in the digital world of the future.

As told to D&AD:

I started as a digital web designer, and I am now a chief creative officer and throughout that whole process e-commerce has always been such an important part of what brands are doing. Even in the early days we were working with brands to establish what a best-in-class e-commerce experience is or would be and that question hasn’t changed.

This has always been a rapidly developing industry, but right now is a time of accelerated change, in part due to the pandemic. Worldwide lockdowns forced brands to develop an e-commerce aspect to their business or refine their existing one. Traditionally, people were going into stores for a shopping experience and with this effectively cut out overnight the pressure was on entire industries to adapt – and fast.

Brands had e-commerce strategies but many weren’t ready to step up to the new demand. A lot of brands didn't even have the infrastructure ready to get you a delivery by seven to eight business days, let alone the next day. Covid has been the most dramatic accelerant to consumer culture since the smartphone – and that blows my mind. These changes forced many brands to pivot and pivot again and one of the things that excites me about e-commerce is its relationship with technology. We are either demanding new tech to fulfil an idea or are coming up with an idea to work with a fresh innovation.

“Covid has been the most dramatic accelerant to consumer culture since the smartphone and that blows my mind”

Barbarian’s launch for Fenty Beauty’s fragrances Fenty Eau De Parfum Ghost Stores saw the brand pivot from a physical launch to creating a concept that could work digitally and direct-to-consumer. Using a mix of smart and evocative copy and the unique appeal of Rihanna, Barbarian took the idea of a ghost kitchen (a kitchen that exists only on Google Maps, not part of an IRL restaurant, used by food delivery companies) and repurposed it into a treasure hunt over a series of days. Each day, a new Fenty “ghost store” would launch with a different fragrance. The product sold out within minutes! It broke all the rules and shattered all expectations; it ended up being one of Fenty’s most successful direct-to-consumer launches of all time.

No matter what technology we are using, the human experience should remain at the heart of what we do by giving customers a simpler, streamlined and easy to understand process, which is the key to a great e-commerce experience. The rise of social commerce is a great example of this. Social media platforms act as channels for inspiration and allow brands an opportunity to be discovered while people scroll through their feeds, providing customers with a socially connected and personalized experience. As the E-Commerce Jury President for D&AD I am looking for a seamless, innovative experience. I’m looking for the unique, the different, the unheard of, and for experiences that delight, but wait…You were also just sold a product and we made it effortless.

“I’m looking for the unique, the different, the unheard of, and for experiences that delight, but wait…You were also just sold a product and we made it effortless”

One of the most exciting developments in the sector is the metaverse going mainstream, meaning an immersive digital shopping experience has arrived. One project that I found inspiring is Nikeland on Roblox which saw Nike launch in the purely digital realm, creating spaces where customers can design and buy footwear in that space. Fans can connect, they can create, they can share, and they can compete. It literally exemplifies their mantra and vision of helping you be the best athlete you can be, but continued into the virtual world.

This ability to shop and interact in a place where every stage can be tailored to a brand is new and opens many possibilities; it’s a complete customer journey in one place. We need to embrace the potential of AR and the metaverse and how exciting this is for the industry. And as banking companies like Mastercard introduce themselves into the cryptocurrency and virtual space, the potential for a smoother customer journey presents many opportunities for innovation around the customer journey experience.

The doorway is open for people to step through to uncharted territory and what that means for e-commerce is extremely exciting because the entire customer journey can happen in the metaverse. It contains opportunities to streamline the way we play, the way we reach new audiences and then the way we enable them to learn more and then ultimately make purchases in one cohesive single experience.

D&AD Awards 2022 is now open for entries​. Submit your work and be part of more.

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