Gone are the days when shopping used to be mostly about convenience. Today, inspiration is a major influence on why people buy — and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
Inspiration is powerful because it evokes consumers’ emotions and drives their shopping desires.
Brands that are able to spark and identify authentic moments of inspiration, and help shoppers turn that inspiration into purchases, are at a major advantage.
How ‘Always On’ Browsing Drives Inspiration-Led Shopping
We live in the era of inspiration overdrive. We no longer get our ideas exclusively from magazines and boutique window displays — now, shoppers are flooded with ads and product recommendations via social media, influencers, bloggers, and celebrities, hundreds of times per day.
Mobile has been integral in this shift, allowing consumers to seek out and browse through inspiring images in the palm of their hands—whenever they want to, wherever they are.
The adventure of product discovery, once relegated to browsing the racks at shopping malls, is replicated through a variety of avenues online. Shoppers watch “fashion haul” YouTube videos, explore user-generated content on Instagram through hashtags like #outfitinspo and #ootd, and look to their favorite brands for similar experiences, including on-site UGC galleries.
Gen Z, in particular, propels inspiration-led shopping forward with a staggering 85% of Gen Zers discovering new products on social media.
In other words, today’s consumers are almost never not either being presented with or seeking out inspiration online. They are “always on,” and always in discovery mode.
How Inspiration Builds Better Customer Relationships
Inspiration is more than just an elusive and fleeting state. Psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot found in their development of the “Inspiration Scale” that inspired people are more open to new experiences, and more absorbed in what they’re doing.
In eCommerce, this translates to inspired shoppers being more engaged in the online shopping experience.
Brands that understand the importance of inspiration, how to spark it, and how to make the most of it are at a distinct advantage because they can be present and serve their customers in ways that are often overlooked.
Here’s what that looks like:
Showing Up to Be Considered
At least 90% of consumers do not have a specific brand in mind when they begin to shop. When you understand what inspires your shoppers, you can show up in the places they look before they’re ready to buy.
Having active social media accounts is the ABC of branding today — but your Instagram posts don’t reach everyone.
Brands that understand what inspires their customers branch out to new platforms, explore new communities, hashtags, and content types, and even create unique in-person experiences to ensure they show up wherever inspiration is likely to strike. After all, if your shoppers are following TikTok influencers for outfit inspiration, no amount of Instagram posting will help them find you when it matters most.
Thinking Like Your Shoppers
When you understand what excites your customers, you can craft journeys that keep up with their every whim and uncover the purchase intent within. Once you’ve shown up on their radar, inspired shoppers on your site need your help to channel that inspiration.
Consider a customer that comes to your site armed with a screenshot from social. How will you help connect her with similar products you have in stock?
What if she gets to your home page with a vague idea of a dress she’s after — how can you show her items that are close enough to get her going and clicking through on relevant items?
Brands that understand the journeys inspired shoppers take can stay two steps ahead and offer them the on-site experiences that ensure they find the items they want.
For example, she may want to search using an image, or maybe she needs to see more photos from your social feed in an on-site gallery to settle on the specific item that most appeals to her. It’s critical that you consider what your next steps would be if you were in her shoes and build the experiences that support that sort of inspiration-led exploration.
Exceeding Customer Expectations
Brands that understand what inspires their shoppers keep constant tabs on the details of the items they view, click on, and purchase. They know that every interaction shoppers have on their websites provides a wealth of information on their ever-changing tastes and desires.
With a real-time pulse on what’s inspiring your customers, you can deliver exactly what they want and even predict emerging trends. For example, if you see an uptick in shoppers clicking on square-neck crop tops and distressed wide-leg jeans, you can adjust your inventory plans to better cater to those preferences before the trend runs its course.
Taking that to the next level, you’re able to anticipate your customers’ upcoming needs even before they shop. You can send inspirational emails with product suggestions based on those rising trends as well as details that align with items each shopper has viewed in the past. What this does is immediately make your customers feel like you “get them” and what they’re looking for, before they can even think of it themselves.
Where Loyalty and Inspiration Come Together
As explained above, inspiration is closely tied to emotional connection. Showing up to provide your shoppers with inspiring products, and then helping them channel that inspiration into purchases on your site, enables you to create an emotional relationship as a brand that truly understands, anticipates, and fulfills your customers’ desires.
Inspired shoppers rely on brands that can help them turn their “aha” moments into reality. It leaves them feeling like every interaction they have is meant for them, and it cements in their mind the understanding that you will always have what they need.
At a time when online competition is so intense and unforgiving, there are few ways that remain to earn the status of a go-to destination, the first brand to come to mind when someone needs a new outfit for a job interview or a dress for a date. By working with your customers to understand where and how they get inspired, and what details spark that inspiration, you can become that number one, top-of-mind choice again and again.