Vanilla Websites: Consumers Can't Tell One Ecommerce Site From The Other

Email marketers should ask themselves: Are our emails the same as everyone else’s? 

Standard best practices prescribe everything form subject line lengths to calls to action. But this could be creating a sameness that erodes brand value.

The question about ecommerce websites is raised in Visions 2022, a new study from Future Commerce.

Brands are so homogenized that it is difficult to tell one from the other, the study says. Of consumers polled, 64% agree that few web sites are unique or have unexpected functionality.

To prove the point, respondents were shown the product listing pages of Bed, Bath & Beyond (mass market retail) and Parachute (upscale DTC) — without the headers that identify them. They saw (and we quote): 

- No significant difference in perceived user-friendliness (36%-39%)

- No distinctiveness of look and feel. (41%-41%, although 18% say neither). 



The higher-end site was perceived as having a more luxe offering, but less intuitive navigation.  

But 80% expect brands to be multidimensional, evolving to fit new customers and environments.    

Consumers are protective of this when they find it — they are 70% more likely to share things that everyone can access versus exclusive and elusive items. 

One issue may be that algorithms are manipulating product market fit, the study states. Among consumers, 43% recently changed their digital behavior to protect their algorithm or identity.  

Two-thirds of consumers acknowledge that their taste is directed by social media, and that the brands mentioned broadcast their values to the world. 

What does this have to do with email? 

"Email has a different set of rules," says Phillip Jackson, co-founder of Future Commerce. "1) It's not interactive in a traditional sense, and can be "designed" with more freedom. This means it inherently has fewer restrictions. 2) Consumers don't expect to click on an email and see it change contextually."

Jackson continues, "We're trained to believe email is static. So, email innovation is more about personalization and timing and offer; all of which can be tailored based on data points you have about consumer interaction." 

Email marketers have one one other tool that can enhance brand value: BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification).

The study also reports these random findings: 

  • 65% feel the brands you purchase provide others with evidence of your personal values/beliefs) 
  • 75% agree there are lots of brands & products they love, which are just not “for me”) 
  • Consumers are 3-4x more concerned about personal data being shared with brands online vs. when shopping in-store)
  • 89% of consumers say they’ve started and maintained some new rituals since the pandemic began in 2020)
  • 76% think the world’s billionaires should focus on real life instead of alternate realities)
  • 70% agree “everyone” posts things online that they wouldn’t in real life. 

Future Commerce surveyed 1,000 consumers from May 5-May 12, 2022. 

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