What is the first step average consumers take when they start their shopping process? What do you and I inevitably do? We don't start with a list of items written down on a piece of paper - at least not anymore, those days are long gone. We may not even start with a list of items on our phone's note-taking app. No. Instead, we start browsing. We hop from one app to another and lose ourselves in the avenues of the online world. We tap on this and that until we see something we like with the right price point. That’s when we decide to buy it. That is what modern demand generation looks like.
How convenient the internet makes the shopping experience is one of the key reasons behind it. The big question is: How exactly can online businesses influence customers to purchase from them? One key factor I'm going to talk about below is inspiration.
Effective demand generation is all about a discovery journey filled with consumer inspiration. In this context, "inspiration" means giving ideas to users and helping them imagine how a particular product can benefit them (e.g., how they'll look in that green dress or how great those shoes will look with the dress they already have).
What's the point? Many online consumers are actively seeking inspiration. They want ideas for an upcoming project or event. They are ready to buy. So, “inspiration” for the sake of demand generation is a strategy that eCommerce brands should seriously consider investing in. Because if they can deliver the relevant content to the right person at the right time and spark a moment of inspiration, that’s a happy ending for all.
Where do people look for inspiration?
The short answer is: virtually anywhere and everywhere.
Granted, some inspiration tends to be more "passive" in nature (e.g., social media users scrolling through their feed and finding something that interests them) vs. inspiration that is "active" (such as when people type specific search queries into Google).
So, some users type a search query into Google, they've already made up their minds that they want to buy something; they're just doing their due diligence by researching their options.
And then, there are others that have the possibility of a strong purchase intent but waiting to be triggered. That's especially true for certain platforms, like Pinterest. Interestingly, Pinterest recently reported that inspiration generates up to a 32% higher return on ad spend (ROAS) on their platform compared to other channels. Users on Pinterest aren't necessarily looking to buy, but they're also more open to new ideas and would buy if something inspires them (An interesting stat: Moreover, weekly Pinterest users are 75% more likely to say they're always shopping.) Obviously, social media is a great way of inspiring people.
Taken together, these stats paint a picture of where and how the average consumer looks for inspiration and why brands should invest in inspiration for demand generation. But, soon, with the death of the cookies, it will not be so easy. Brands will not be able to track shoppers, collect data about their preferences, and target/inspire them with their content. And you know, inspiration will only hit on the nail IF it makes sense to the shopper - meaning if the content is relevant.
Brand websites have great potential to become a source of inspiration
Interestingly, one survey found that 51% of shoppers still view search engines as a leading source of inspiration, followed by 33% for brand websites and 32% for social media - Pinterest in particular (But keep in mind that 97% of the top searches on Pinterest are unbranded).
Let me repeat: 33% check out brand websites for inspiration. What an amazing opportunity that is for the brands!
Think about it: eCommerce is a digital shop window that can open up a world of possibilities for shoppers, especially since it isn't constrained by physical limitations (like brick-and-mortar stores). The limit of eCommerce inspiration is the marketer’s imagination.
How can you make use of inspiration for demand generation?
For instance, you can get creative with what you offer. Obviously, the core action of an eCommerce app is facilitating the purchase of a product or service. But why limit yourself to content strictly centered on that? Let's say you have a food delivery app. Why not offer users content about different cuisines of the world, and inspire them to order food from a new restaurant? They'll enjoy a new experience and will associate your app with that spirit of adventure for some time to come.
Additionally, you can adopt shoppertainment. According to a recent study from BCG and TikTok, 28% of shoppers cited entertainment as their primary reason for considering direct purchases from other platforms. So, use easy-to-digest, fun, and immersive content formats on your websites and in your apps to inspire users in a way that will catch their eye. Shoppable videos, shoppable Stories, interactive and gamified content… These are all great tools to make use of shoppertainment. Especially the shoppable content, such as video Stories, would stand out as they can inspire users to shop-the-look in a fast, seamless, and fun way.
And finally, you can communicate a unique brand story. Don't underestimate the power of a good story to inspire your consumers. When you convey a unique brand story that really resonates with your core customer demographic, you can expect that at least a few shoppers will buy from your brand based on principle alone. Patagonia, with its reputation for environmental consciousness, is one example of an eCommerce brand that's leveraged narrative to drive inspiration (and sales). OLLY is another one: they share content on their website (in the format of bite-sized Stories) to inspire people to set achievable goals and live healthier.
Here's the bottom line…
If you want to grow your eCommerce brand, then doubling down on inspiration is a good place to start. So get out there, get creative, and inspire your customers to try out new things! Your end-year results will thank you for it.