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The 6 wildest ways we shopped in 2020

For the past five years, many brands have worked hard to create immersive, entertaining experiences in their brick-and-mortar stores to entice customers in. (Remember Glossier’s millennial pink cafe? Or Casper’s nap bar?) In 2020, with stores shuttered for months, the pressure was on for brands to create immersive digital experiences for consumers.

This makes sense. During the pandemic, consumers flocked to the internet like never before: experts at IBM says that e-commerce grew by 20%, and the shift from physical stores to online shopping accelerated by five years. But the flip side of that is that brick-and-mortar revenues declined by 14% in 2020, creating a loss so great that even the spike in online sales won’t make up for it. To stay afloat, brands are now under incredible pressure to boost their digital experience. They need to offer fun, memorable, and seamless shopping experiences—or risk losing the consumers’ attention.

Ashley Schapiro, VP of global media at American Eagle, points out that people began spending far more time on the internet. So in some ways, brands aren’t just competing with one another, but also with the pull of Netflix, YouTube, and social media. She decided if American Eagle can’t beat ’em, it better join ’em. “We need to be where our customers are,” Schapiro says. “To be relevant and present with Gen Z, we needed to get creative and explore new avenues.” This is why Schapiro helped American Eagle pioneer the very first Snapchat store, where users can shop directly from the brand’s stories on the app.

American Eagle was one of many brands this year that explored new ways to capture our attention. As the retail sector got pummeled by the pandemic, brands rose to the occasion by nimbly and creatively trying new things they never would have done otherwise—and some of these experiments may end up shaping the future of shopping. Here are six unconventional new approaches that suggest that e-commerce is about to get a lot more entertaining.

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