Ten important trends that will define eCommerce in 2022 and beyond.
As the world continues to rebuild in the wake of the ongoing COVID pandemic, eCommerce continues to expand–albeit, slower than the massive eCommerce boom of 2020. Supply chain shortages, market oversaturation, increased customer expectations, and data security have all impacted how merchants sell and how consumers shop. As a result of these challenges, shifts in consumer behavior have forced retailers to get inventive in managing and operating their businesses. New industry trends emerged in 2021 and with 2022 being projected to experience the same slow-but-steady growth as the previous year, businesses can expect even more innovations and developments to further eCommerce in 2022.
eCommerce Trends for 2022 (and beyond):
- Multichannel Personalization
- Web Accessibility
- Social Media and eCommerce
- Green Consumerism
- Faster and Better Payment Processing
- Headless Commerce
- Augmented Reality
- Customer Loyalty Programs
- The Rise of B2B eCommerce
- The Small Business Renaissance
#1: Multichannel Personalization
Personalized shopping experiences help drive customer engagement which, in turn, helps drive sales. A study by Epsilon reported that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with companies that provide personalized shopping experiences. It was Amazon who revolutionized the personalized shopping experience, first with their Amazon Prime priority shipping and delivery service and the introduction of Alexa in 2014. Since then, other Internet retailers either aped Amazon’s tactics or went on to develop their own as a direct result. Now, the personalized online shopping experience has extended to online marketing.
Multichannel personalization takes unique individual customer data and uses it to deliver customized promotional materials across various avenues. But unlike multichannel advertising, which relies mainly on social media and website ads, multichannel personalization can employ organic and/or paid content and can be distributed directly to the target individual through EMail, desktop notifications, push messages, and feed reader apps. Data is culled directly from the customer, typically from a previous interaction or opt-in service, such as signing up for a newsletter, a free trial, or opening a new account. This data is then used to create a customer profile consisting of their respective individual interests, behaviors, and preferences. Content based off of this data can be personalized and distributed accordingly.
Customers that feel a connection between themselves and your business are more likely to continue being your customers, with the very high likelihood of recommending you to others.
#2: Web Accessibility
This one isn’t so much a trend but more of a permanent web design staple that’ll be around as long as there’s still an Internet. Rules regarding web accessibility were finalized and written into law on January 18th, 2017 by the US Access Board in accordance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act (1996).
Web accessibility, as the name implies, grants unobstructed accessibility of your website to all users regardless of disability or circumstance, situational disabilities, and socio-economical and even environmental limitations of bandwidth speed. This includes mobile-friendly design, device independence (software that is non-specific to a particular brand, model, or family of devices and is compatible with a broad range of machines), multimodal interaction, UX design for disabled persons and the elderly, and search engine optimization.
There are many benefits to be had with making your website fully accessible; not only does your brand get exposed to a broader shopper base (with the goal of turning said-shoppers into paying customers), your brand’s public perception can become one of progressive forward-thinking and technological innovation, which is important to have in such a tech-based and tech-reliant industry as eCommerce. This flexibility in user interface design can also be enjoyed for people without disabilities, creating new groundbreaking practices that have the potential to become trends within itself. There is also the legal side of web accessibility.
Many countries are required by law to feature web accessibility for all users and the United States is no different; web accessibility is even part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Non-compliance can result in discrimination lawsuits and other legal penalties. Accessibility has become an integral part of web design in recent years yet, it also happens to be one of the most accidentally overlooked. Even major corporations like Netflix, Nike, and the Fox News Network were not exempt from complying with ADA laws.
#3: Social Media and eCommerce
Social media was initially created to help people connect with friends, family members, co-workers past and present, and even total strangers with whom you share common interest(s) VIA the forums and bulletin boards on the Internet. Then, with the technological advancements of smartphones, mobile Internet access, and dedicated social media platforms such as MySpace and Facebook, usage exploded on a global scale as people were no longer restrained to the confines of a home desktop computer. Companies also joined in on the social media phenomenon, opening up their own social media channels for which to promote their respective brands and products. Like how an individual user would publicly post an update about a certain topic, companies would follow suit and publish an update highlighting a specific product or service of interest. Users who were following said-company would then share that content on their own pages for their friends and followers to view, and then they told their friends, and those friends told their friends, and so on, and so on.
The revolution of social media-driven viral marketing led to personalized, targeted direct advertising which was all made possible thanks to users willingly submitting their personal information. Marketing through social media is both effective and cost-efficient; zero upfront cost is required to open a user account on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, or any of the other major platforms today. It’s a modern, 21st century take on word-of-mouth advertising.
In order to further increase customer reach, a company can also opt for paid sponsored advertising that will prioritize select posts and display them according to specific demographics such as age range, gender, and shared interests. For a business to be in eCommerce today and not have at least one active social media account is almost unthinkable, but there are still those who are slow to adopt the new philosophy. Studies show that online sellers with an active presence on social media earn up to 32% more sales than stores that do not. Social media can fortify your public brand awareness, strengthen the relationship with your existing customer base while expanding to new customers, generate new leads, and increase conversion rates.
#4: Green Consumerism
People today are more involved with social concerns and environmental causes than in generations past and this even extends to how and where they spend their money. In a stark contrast to the destructive excess consumerism of the 1970s and 1980s, consumers are educating themselves on the more pressing ethical issues of capitalism; demands are shifting towards sustainable, Earth-friendly, and ethical business practices and many companies are accommodating and even welcoming the change in ideals.
In a recent report by Zeno, their research reveals that for companies that actively champion social and environmental causes, their customers are 4 times more likely to become repeat shoppers, are 6 times more likely to defend them in the event of a public indiscretion, 4.5 times more likely to recommend to friends and family, and 4.1 times more likely to remain loyal. The push towards sustainability has reached the eCommerce industry. Perhaps ironically, green consumerism and eCommerce almost contradict each other; eCommerce was built on convenience and instant gratification. After all, this is how Amazon became the eCommerce juggernaut that it is today (coincidentally, they’re also one of the most notorious corporate polluters in generating millions of pounds of waste plastics per year).
Conversely, companies themselves can take a stand and push for sustainable business practices while influencing the non-Earth-conscious consumer into changing their mindsets for the betterment of the environment. Such practices can be as simple as consolidating multiple shipments into a single container, which not only lowers costs and takes some pressure off of the already-overburdened shipping carriers and supply chains, it also has the added environmental benefits of decreasing carbon emissions (from shipping and delivery) and reducing waste in packaging materials.
Taking a public stand to actively promote green business practices will help feed green consumerism in eCommerce. Consumers and businesses together have the power to change how the world will operate without any more unnecessary harm to the environment.
#5: Faster and Better Payment Processing
One of the biggest turn-offs for people who are still iffy about shopping online is the checkout process. Whether it’s a requirement to open a customer account, technical issues and slow web performance, identity theft, not having the customer’s preferred choice of payment option, or the process being needlessly complicated, it’s here where first-time shoppers (especially, older users who are still adjusting to modern tech) often abandon their carts and take their business elsewhere–a website (perhaps, your direct competitor) with a simpler, streamlined checkout process, or even going out in public and purchasing from their favorite brick-and-mortar store location.
As a business owner, you can remove this obstacle and put first-time shoppers at ease by diversifying your payment methods, keeping tabs on the latest security certifications and ensuring that your website is PCI compliant, and by offering alternative checkout methods and financing, credit and/or Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services.
Consumers want choices and presenting them a variety of ways to complete their purchases will reduce abandoned carts and website bounce rates, increase conversions and revenue, encourage new shoppers to become repeat customers, and build trust between your business and your public. Alternative checkouts speed up the checkout process and lower the possibility of identity theft through credit card terminal swipes; users enter their checking or credit information into an app such as PayPal Checkout, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, and Apple Pay and with their app of choice open on smartphones and NFC enabled, scan the phone through a capable POS terminal. This no-touch approach is also hygienic as people who may be immunocompromised or are overly cautious about the spread of COVID do not have to physically touch a machine that has already had multiple other peoples’ hands all over it.
In regards to retailers that sell high-ticket merchandise or those with large average order values, having credit and financing solutions or a BNPL service can help persuade shoppers towards completing their purchases by permitting them to spread out payments. For example, very rarely do people go to an auto dealership and buy a car right off the lot with the money they’re carrying on their person. Nor do people commonly pay for homes by pulling out whatever money is in their back pocket. Only a select few can afford such luxuries so for everyone else, banks and credit unions have loan programs. BNPL services like PayPal Credit, Affirm, and Karma are popular alternatives to bank payday loans and are more attainable for the general public, including those who are of poor credit or are in the process of rebuilding their credit scores.
Don’t forget: if your website is experiencing technical issues that cause lock-ups or slow loading during the checkout process, it’s imperative that you sort them out because poor website performance will negate any other improvements you’ve made.
#6: Headless Commerce
eCommerce and Internet technology have seen rapid growth throughout the past few years and one of the leading innovations in both is headless commerce. Headless commerce separates the frontend from the admin backend, allowing for faster and simpler website updates and appearance changes without the need to heavily modify the code. It works by connecting various services through an API that controls the content delivery. This is especially helpful in creating a singular experience that users, regardless of technical knowledge or experience, can operate and navigate with ease.
Headless commerce is flexible; there is no set code that blocks data delivery to multiple endpoints like IOT (Internet of Things) devices and apps. It also reduces the chance of obstructing your regular everyday business by eliminating the downtime that would be required to perform major website updates. On the design aspect, a retail website using headless commerce can employ new experimental layout schemes and expanded interactivity functions. Not only will site visitors be more inclined to engage, you’ll help your business stand out from your competitors. The biggest advantage would be the significant boost in website loading performance that happens with headless commerce.
Website speeds not only affect user engagement (slow speeds are often the leading cause to high bounce rates), they’re also detrimental to search engine rankings. As of this writing, Google’s latest algorithm update also factors in performance when it comes to how it ranks websites for optimal display. Naturally, websites near the top of the list on Google will be the ones that garner the most views and attention while websites that are buried near the back will be the ones most often ignored. Keep in mind that while it’s important to have the highest possible ranking, 95% of traffic comes from the first page alone and 75% users tend not to even bother checking any search engine results after page 1. Several world-famous corporations have already taken to headless commerce; Amazon (not surprisingly, as they were one of the earliest major pioneers of headless commerce), Etsy, Toyota, Sony, and Nike to name a few.
With the advancements of Internet technology and the persistent uncertainty over the COVID pandemic, expect eCommerce to continue its growth and expect more companies to adopt headless commerce systems for their websites.
#7: Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality’s (AR) roots began in the late 1950s as an experimental concept machine created by cinematographer Morton Heilig. The machine, called the Sensorama, was designed to produce the ultimate moviegoing experience by immersing the viewer with supplemental sensory cues (such as scents and vibration feedback) that were timed with an accompanying film. Fast forward to the 21st century, where Mr. Heilig’s ambitious ideas were reintegrated into what we know today as Augmented Reality. AR tech uses data and simulation to project computer graphics and/or 3D models onto a world-facing camera VIA a headset, goggles, computer screen, or mobile device. AR tech can be currently found in a myriad of fields and industries including engineering, construction and architecture, medical and biotech, education, art, and even video games.
The use of Augmented Reality in eCommerce websites saw a massive spike during the onset of the COVID pandemic as the world’s population was asked to stay home and limit their interactions with the public. Like a lot of new online retail convenience features (as well as eCommerce, itself), AR technology was implemented to allow users to virtually interact, experience, and visualize products in real-time without leaving their present location.
With AR-enabled websites and corresponding AR-enabled devices, consumers can better envision how their product will fit into their space and meet their specific needs. Clothing stores, furniture shops, eyeglass sellers, and auto dealerships have experimented with incorporating AR simulations onto their websites. In fashion and home furnishings, users can upload a photo of themselves or their living quarters and a 3D model of the product will be displayed; a shopper can virtually “try on” an article of clothing or visualize how a new couch, bedroom set, or other piece of furniture will look in their room. For auto dealerships, detailed photos of vehicle exteriors and interiors and interactive 360 degree photos help create the illusion of physically being in a live showroom.
AR tech is the logical progression of adding images to a product listing or product page; it’s another way to present the website viewer with a fully immersive user experience in lieu of flesh-and-blood human sales assistants and physical retail locations.
#8: Customer Loyalty Programs
One of the biggest hurdles that any business has to overcome is customer retention; how to turn a new one-time shopper into a long-term repeat customer. If you’ve made it this far in our piece, you would have noticed that all of our aforementioned points deal with providing personalized experiences for online retail customers. Add customer loyalty programs to that list.
Customer loyalty programs are built to reward shoppers who repeatedly interact with your store. It helps your business cement itself within your chosen market and encourages customers to continue buying from your store instead of doing business with your competition. Companies can offer such perks as reward points towards future purchases, exclusive discounts on select merchandise, or redeemable coupon codes to use on your website. The idea is not too dissimilar to the old fashioned loyalty punch cards. Research conducted by YotPo states that 68% of their survey’s participants would join a loyalty program for brands that they respect.
There are specific customer loyalty apps by Smile.io, YotPo, and S Loyalty that can be integrated into your BigCommerce or Shopify website. Another way to promote customer loyalty is through an EMail marketing service like those extended by MailChimp, Spently, and Growave. When done right, EMail marketing can be highly effective. A report by the Content Marketing Institute says that EMail newsletters are their highest-performing content type for lead generation and nurturing.
At the end of the day, the main goal is to boost sales and conversion rates. How does a business go about doing exactly that in such an oversaturated industry like eCommerce? They prioritize the importance of their customers. Make your customers feel special. Make them feel wanted. Let them know that they’re important to you because they absolutely are. After all, businesses can’t survive without anyone being interested in their products or services.
#9: The Rise of B2B eCommerce
Business to Business (B2B) sellers used to rely on traditional sales practices such as cold-calling, print catalogs, and traveling salespeople. That began to change in the early 2010s as B2B turned to the Internet. In fact, B2B websites actually helped change the way other eCommerce retail sites operated. B2B websites were technologically-advanced compared to their traditional eCommerce counterparts and greeted each customer that signed into an account with an immersive and personalized shopping experience. This eventually made its way to regular eCommerce retail (Business to Consumer, or B2C).
The B2B and B2C business models are similar, but B2B requires more time and effort as companies are in contact with each other and purchases are typically far more expensive and/or in high volume, such is the case with wholesalers. For users on the BigCommerce platform, the company unveiled their new BigCommerce B2B Edition platform on June 2nd, 2021. Designed to enhance the selling experience for B2B merchants, BigCommerce B2B Edition includes specialized features from BundleB2B (as part of the BigCommerce/BundleB2B partnership) to further lean out B2B transactions and promote better efficiency through self-service capabilities.
Features of BigCommerce B2B Edition include:
- Price lists
- Customer groups
- Corporate account management
- Shared shopping lists
- Invoice management
- Payment method visibility management
The standard version of BigCommerce also has basic B2B features such as customer groups, price lists, and the ability to set discounts per group; you can manage wholesale retail and consumer retail together using the same platform. To add a quote request function to your BigCommerce website, you choose from an array of highly-ranked B2B quote request apps such as B2B Ninja and Form Builder by POWR. Quote request forms let you serve your B2B customers to the highest levels of efficiency by tending to their unique requirements.
It’s also crucial that your company develops a strong B2B strategy. Doing so will result in increased sales activities, higher order values, and stronger customer satisfaction.
#10: The Small Business Renaissance
The events of the past two years have forced a change among American shoppers, the most notable examples are due to the COVID pandemic which is yet to subside. Consumers saw their local businesses, longtime neighborhood staples with some who’ve been operating for several generations, die off unceremoniously while the government stood by and watched. Megacorporations exploited the hardships brought forth by the pandemic by manipulating supply and demand and skyrocketing inflation to its highest point in 40 years. Plus, there were those boisterous and ill-timed public displays of excess, such as the billionaire space races between Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, Virgin media mogul Richard Branson, and Tesla’s Elon Musk which, unlike the technological marvel and nationalistic pride of the 1960s space races between the US and Russia, left many Americans with a sour opinion of all three participants.
In response to the wasteful and tasteless attitudes of billionaires and megacorporations towards the regular everyday public who suffered through the pandemic, people have responded by turning their attention–and most importantly, their money–to helping out small businesses and local establishments. Amazon, who has the distinction of being both the pinnacle of eCommerce and the very epitome of poor ethics and environmentally damaging business practices, experienced its slowest sales growth in 7 years in 2021. Reasons cited include internal investment into new technologies and rising operating costs but a factor that made an impact but received little to no media attention was the public’s changing perception of Amazon towards the negative.
Consumers began to break away from Amazon and other major eCommerce super retailers and took their business to those smaller and independent companies who were struggling to make ends meet. Also, in light of the civil unrest perpetrated throughout the last 4 years, the public began to support woman-owned and black-owned businesses as a message of solidarity towards those peoples who were directly victimized by the previous presidential administration.
Today’s purchasing public has become more sympathetic and in-tune to social justice causes and environmental concerns and like green consumerism, the rise of smaller businesses and independents against the stranglehold of megacorporations can be considered a form of activism. However, it’s a form of activism that shows no signs of wavering in 2022 and beyond.