Startup Stories

Can eStores Achieve the Right Balance Between Technology and the Human Touch?

Since widespread digital transformation began to take hold of nearly every aspect of daily life, the same question has rung out again and again: How digital is too digital? And, how can we balance the convenience of technology with our need for human connection? This is particularly poignant for online businesses, with many customers wanting the convenience of shopping online while also wanting the service and meaningful, genuine connection that comes with brick-and-mortar shopping. The numbers back up this notion too, with a 2020 study finding that 85 percent of shoppers visiting eStores value human connection over convenience, and more than 60 percent claiming their needs aren’t being met.

This desire makes sense. Of course, the convenience that comes with online shopping is the main attraction, and businesses have maximized that convenience – as well as their profitability – via the automation of every function, from order placement to customer support. Unfortunately, with all the focus allotted to efficiency, equally vital retail aspects like accessibility and personable service have gone out the window.

Essentially, the face of online shopping has become inhuman. Is there a way for us to achieve a balance?

Utilizing Tech to Shape Human Experience

Although technology has brought us to where we are now, it’s not solely to blame. When used correctly, it can boost the human aspect and provide vehicles for connection and channels for communication, like we’ve seen across many social media platforms. Innovations that utilize these same social channels to benefit online stores also exist, and one such method is through live selling.

For the uninitiated, live selling is a practice where retailers showcase their products to potential customers, including how the product works, the cost, and the benefits it provides, live, before offering customers the opportunity to purchase the product. While this might sound like the shopping channel, instead of being filmed in a studio and broadcast on television, it’s filmed and aired on social media channels, where interested buyers can make a purchase directly, or visit an eCommerce site to finalize a purchase.

We might view shopping channels on TV as antiquated or corny, but the fact that direct-to-consumer sales totalled over $130 billion in 2021 with a forecasted total of $151 billion in 2022 should illustrate just how effective the practice is – so why is it so effective?

According to marketing expert, Professor Steven D’Alessandro, the main reason is because humans crave social connection, and watching someone we feel a connection with demonstrating a product drives our impulse to purchase. Essentially, live selling creates not only a social, human connection between customers and sellers, but also creates a sense of urgency as the window to purchase appears to be finite. There’s also an element of safety, as watching a demonstration of a product actively reduces the perceived amount of risk in making the purchase, claims D’Alessandro.

With all this in mind, it’s clear that live selling marries technology with social connection to foster an engaging shopping experience with a human touch, but how can an eCommerce business go about implementing their own live selling practices?

In Practice

Innovations to incorporate live selling into social channels are already happening. In 2018, Alibaba released Alibaba Live, where users could utilize live streams to make sales. In 2019, Amazon added a similar feature for their top brands, and in 2021, Facebook followed suit with the roll out of live shopping features which enabled brands to live sell products every Friday. Since, the social media giant has partnered with a range of tech companies, such as Vajro, to make the practice of live selling easier. Through these platforms, a live selling session can be started with a few taps – giving eCommerce businesses the ability to not only inject a little human connection into their online store, but to maximize their sales as well.

Although technology has provided many benefits when it comes to running an eCommerce business, it’s also forced equally vital aspects of human connection retail out of the picture. Through innovating to find ways to boost human connection when selling online, like live selling, eCommerce businesses can connect with their customers, create engaging content, sell more products, and ultimately, maximize their chances of becoming more profitable in the long term.

Baskar Agneeswaran is the CEO of Vajro. Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Vajro is a mobile app platform exquisitely crafted for Android and iOS apps that brands can use to build native Android and iOS apps in just sixty minutes without writing a single line of code.