2021 was hardly business as usual for retailers. It's no secret that many businesses are already looking ahead to what they hope to be a strong 2022. Keeping up with, and acting upon key ecommerce trends will impact how this year looks for your bottom line.
Let's start with a recap of 2021. Various restrictions and closures have pinched consumers' budgets who were unable to earn their pre-Covid income. Meanwhile, many other consumers' spending patterns have continued to be disrupted, by the continued need to work from home and travel limitations or restrictions. Physical retail locations have had to work with less foot traffic and inventory tradeoffs. Add to that major supply chain disruptions and this has been a challenging, unpredictable year.
It's not all doom and gloom however. Spending in 2021 grew by 6% compared to a pre-Covid trajectory, largely driven by those with higher incomes and younger consumers. And while 2020 was the first to be celebrated as a banner year for ecommerce (with continued growth in 2021), 2022 is looking even stronger, with projections of $5.4 trillion, a 26% increase over 2020's $4.28 trillion - and up 500% from 2014.
Looking ahead to the hottest ecommerce trends for 2022 means planning ahead right now. Whether you're in the budgeting phase, full sprint planning mode, or just beginning to define next steps, paying attention to emerging ecommerce trends after Covid can be the difference between a banner year and bottoming out.
This convenient guide highlights some of the top ecommerce trends and prospects in 2022 that you need to be aware of. In fact, we're encouraging you take an Ecommerce New Year's Resolution pledge: To pick at least one of these trends to prioritize for your ecommerce experience. The good news is we've got plenty of inspiration to help you get your resolution off the ground and implemented. Jump down to one of the resolutions below and get some expert insight on why these ecommerce consumer trends matter and how to execute on them, or scroll down to read them all.
This is the year that we...
- Find unexpected or innovative ways to surprise and delight customers.
- Improve our visual commerce strategy.
- Better represent what we stand for as a brand.
- Meet customers where they are.
- Understand shoppers and segment them better.
- Invest in artificial intelligence.
Trend #1: Find unexpected or innovative ways to surprise and delight customers
Traditionally speaking when people think about optimizing their ecommerce store, many retailers have been focused on the fundamentals of a positive transaction, tackling things like:
- Improved search function
- Proper inventory management
- Flexible and comprehensive payment options
- Good return policies including syncing online/offline returns
- Positive post-purchase and fulfillment experiences including tracking
- Versatile fulfillment options including BOPIS or local last-mile delivery from storefronts
And to be clear, if you're still working on the the basics of the above, this probably isn't the time to start investing in other things that make up a positive experience.
But if you're ready to layer on additional ways to differentiate your brand, one of the biggest ecommerce digital trends in 2022 to keep on top of is how you're adding a wow factor to the online shopping experience.
Brands have had to become increasingly savvy in simulating the positive experience a customer might have in store (whether that brand has a physical location or not) with the decidedly less-exciting experience of ripping open a cardboard box or mailer at home. Everything from custom packaging to signature scents have helped make that at-home unboxing into an actual moment, leading to the proliferation of unboxing videos on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.
In fact a study by Google measured that 1 in 5 customers have watched an unboxing video, with 60 million searches and 3 billion views on YouTube in 2017. This same Google survey also stated that 62% of consumers are watching unboxing videos when looking for a specific product.
Unboxing is one key spot to level up the surprise factor for your customers, but it's far from the only one. Consider these other options to make every shopping experience a memorable one.
Tactic: Surprise and delight -- gifts with purchase
Free samples and coupons have become the norm to include in packaging. But an actual gift with purchase - whether a customer is expecting it or not - can be a huge incentive to continue shopping with you. The trick is to find add-ons that are of value to the customer. A bonus item in a limited edition print or a generously-sized sample of a luxury product will easily put a smile on your customer's face, making it an increasingly popular ecommerce emerging trend.
Here's a few tips to make your surprise gifts sensational:
- Give away an item that's available for purchase in your store, so customers can see the listed value (and buy more if they love it). Using products with actual dollar values instantly boosts the perceived value - it's the difference between "Get a free pair of socks with your order" and "Get a free pair of our bestselling cashmere socks with your order (ARV: $30)".
- Promote limited quantities of a bonus item within a specific time period to drive sales.
- Add free gifts when a customer hits a milestone such as a birthday, the one-year anniversary of their first purchase, or a spending threshold.
- Give gifts more frequently to your most loyal customers.
- Wrap your customers' items in a branded tote bag with style to save on wasteful packaging and encourage them to promote your brand 'in the wild.'
- Include freebies that have a practical purpose related to the product the customer has purchased, like free shoe wipes on their first shoe purchase or a laundry bag for lingerie or activewear.
Tactic: Make your post-purchase sales experience feel special
When it comes to offering sales and promotions, most brands fall into one of two camps: They're either stuck in a constant cycle of discounting or they offer zero (or next to zero) sales. While both methods have their pros and cons, there is a way to make your sales events feel like events. Keep in mind that from a customer perspective, more than 64% of shoppers will wait for a product to go on sale before they make a purchase, assuming you do sales at all. And 43% say they'll prioritize exclusive pre-sale deals for loyal customers when choosing where to do their holiday shopping.
If you are going to do sales promotions, try something different that your customers haven't seen a million times before to make them take notice and be motivated to buy.
Here are some discounting and promotions trends for marketers and brands to pay attention to:
- Only offer discounts to top tier loyalty program members (but consider offering a lower-discount sale to new customers that sign up for your loyalty program).
- Send out 'presale' emails to your email list to give them 24 hours early access before the sale is promoted on your site.
- Encourage customers to download your app and browse around to unlock a surprise coupon code.
- Discount your new arrivals for a limited period of time to drive rapid sales and reviews.
- Offer lifestyle discounts to customer groups (e.g. teachers, students, military, etc.) as tie-ins to specific public events.
- Make your sale exclusively available through a select channel, such as an app or livestream event, to drive more traffic to desired channels.
- Do a cross-merchandising sale; make a purchase with one brand to earn a discount with another.
- Get charitable in a meaningful way - donate 100% of proceeds from a specific product or collection on a specific day of the month.
- Offer a free gift with purchase when a customer hits a minimum threshold during your sale event (see ideas above for how to give your free gifts a major wow factor).
Tactic: Add a personal touch in unexpected places
We're all used to getting emails with our name on them and receiving discount coupons on our birthdays, but there are plenty of other opportunities to personalize that will delight your customers. Epsilon has noted that 80% of customers are more likely to shop with brands that offer personalization, and there are plenty of surprising places to do it.
Here are some ways to maximize your personalization impact:
- Print a custom label to seal your box with your customer's name on it (e.g. 'Let's have an opening party Jane!').
- Include 1:1 recommendations in transactional emails such as order confirmations or review requests, with related products (ask us how).
- Match the unboxing experience to your customer's preferences (e.g. ask what scent they prefer, wrap items in their favorite color, or include free samples that mirror the product categories they've shown an interest in).
- Include a message, note, or letter that communicates the impact a customer's purchase has made on the maker, business, social cause, or environment.
Trend #2: Improve our visual commerce strategy
When it comes to ecommerce, the eyes have it. The quality, number, and variety of your product images is becoming increasingly important, with 67% of ecommerce consumers saying the quality of a product image is very important when selecting and purchasing a product. Further to that, more than half of shoppers have delayed or decided against a purchase due to unhelpful product images. It's no wonder then that a solid visual commerce strategy is one of the biggest ecommerce trends for brands to pay attention to in 2022.
Tactic: Make your online experience feel like real life
While many of us have become accustomed to shopping online over the last two years in particular, a large number of shoppers still like the experience of visiting a store to talk to a sales associate, try on shoes, feel fabrics, and see the IRL (in real life) color swatches. But what's easy to forget is that for many shoppers, in-store shopping will never be a reality based on where they live, particularly for brands that have limited or no permanent retail locations. This makes it key for brands to find ways to simulate the experience of shopping in person. Here are a few ways to do so:
- Create 360 degree photos or models to let customers see every angle of a product.
- Film short videos of an item in motion, on a model, or in different lights / settings.
- A/B test different feature product images between lifestyle or product shots to see which one converts best (we can help with that).
- Show the product in use.
- Leverage user-generated content to show products on actual customers.
- Design augmented reality experiences that let customers visualize a product in their home or on themselves.
Tactic: Extend your visual commerce strategy across multiple channels
It's easy to focus on gorgeous images on your website, but every dollar spent on your visual assets should be maximized by thinking of additional ways to use these images.
- Use QR tags on your in-store merchandise to give shoppers the opportunity to see a product on a model, styled different ways, or in use versus what they can experience in store.
- Run visual shopping ads on Pinterest and Google Shopping (talk to us about optimizing your feed for Google Shopping ads).
- Invest in a visual search tool to allow customers to search for products on your site using images.
- Create a video channel customers can subscribe to for previews of upcoming product drops in a more informal setting.
Tactic: Improve your approach to inclusivity
30% of consumers say that they don't 'see themselves' in the images their favorite brands put out there. Inclusivity has never been more important and top of mind for brands of any type to consider, well beyond the realm of the fashion industry. Here some key things to think about when considering your visual commerce strategy's inclusivity:
- Sizes: Can customers view the product on different sizes? Petites vs. Plus?
- Ages: If your brand caters to a range of ages, are you showing products on different age groups?
- Skin tone / Ethnicities: Are you showing a balance of different cultural backgrounds?
- Appropriation: Is there anything in your visual commerce (or product lineup) that could be considered cultural appropriation?
- Disabled people: Have you considered showing persons who use a wheelchair, mentally disabled, the neurodivergent, or amputees in your marketing?
Trend #3: Better represent what we stand for as a brand
As shoppers focus their gaze on some of the macro issues facing our planet and society, purpose driven brands has become a major ecommerce trend -- and it's only going to get bigger from here.
Today's shoppers are more conscientious than ever before, across all demographics. For younger consumers like Gen Zs in particular, it's not just about the products you sell, it's about what you represent as a company. More than 6 in 10 younger consumers say they closely consider a company's ethical values and authenticity before buying from them.
Sustainability is chief among the concerns consumers are thinking about before they open their wallets. 63% of consumers say they want to buy products from purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, while 75% say they'll pay more for eco-friendly products. And 73% say they prefer to buy from sustainable brands, period.
And, sustainability isn't the only thing every brand should consider having a stance on; customers want to know your position on other areas relevant to your business including:
- Sustainable materials and manufacturing processes
- Sustainable packaging and shipping policies
- Greenhouse gas emission reductions or offsets
- Animal welfare
- Fair labor and sourcing practices
- Employee welfare and policies
- Recycling and resale programs
- 1 for 1 donation programs
- 'Slow fashion' or mindful shopping promotion
- Warranties / product commitments
- BIPOC-owned or in support of related causes and communities (e.g. Black Lives Matter)
- LGBTQQIP2SAA-owned or in support of related causes and communities
- Locally-owned, sourced, or manufactured
- Charitable contributions / causes / organizations
Keep in mind that while you don't need to have a stance on every issue, where you do choose to take a stand should be thoroughly and rigorously embedded in company culture, operations, and manufacturing / buying policies. Greenwashing in particular is increasingly coming under scrutiny as having the potential to be labeled as false advertising. 89% of customers expect companies to clearly state their values, and 90% expect them to clearly demonstrate those values.
Companies that don't have a clean narrative should be prepared to feel the repercussions. 71% of young consumers believe that refusing to buy from brands or criticizing them on social media can have an impact in how companies act. Here are some ways you can show customers you are making a difference.
Tactic: Give customers the chance to give back.
Customers want to shop with brands that are authentic in their commitment to what they stand for. "Pinkwashing" is a great example: where a slew of pink-themed items are marketed by companies, typically during the month of October, with only nominal profits going to the charities the products purport to be supporting. If you're going to give customers products 'in support of' a cause, make sure you're matching expectations to reality. Here are some ideas on how to run a well thought-out program:
- Run a Giving Tuesday campaign following Black Friday, where you either match contributions (up to a set amount) or promote a flat donation you're planning to make and give customers the chance to contribute as well. Consider giving customers a small reward in exchange for their donation, like a coupon code or bonus gift. Follow up your campaign with content for your website and social media that outlines how much was raised and how it's being used.
- Create specific products for your cause of choice and highlight that 100% of the net proceeds will go to the charity. Anything less than 100% and be prepared to potentially risk scrutiny.
- Instead of focusing on a single product with 100% of proceeds going to a charity, consider offering up a set percentage - such as 10% - of your proceeds store-wide (or collection-wide) across a single day or campaign period.
- Allow customers to donate a small amount at checkout every single time they shop with you.
- Give customers the chance to give you feedback on the causes they care about that align with your brand.
- Consider supporting multiple organizations in a single year.
Tactic: Tell your story and tell it together
One of the biggest criticisms of brands who are accused of pinkwashing (or greenwashing, or other similar terms), is that there's little follow-through. 83% of younger consumers want companies to align with their values, but as part of that, 76% want CEOs to speak out on issues they care about. Brands that are revered for their sustainability in particular, promote it at every level of their business. If your business is planning to take a stand on a specific cause, it should be readily visible. For example, if you have a public pledge to diversity, a customer may expect to see the following:
- Opportunities to donate or give back to organizations committed to diversity and inclusivity.
- A clearly stated mandate for diverse hiring policies at all levels.
- A diverse leadership team and / or board.
- Training for employees on diversity and racial bias.
- Whistleblower hotlines for employees and customers to speak out against bias or discrimination witnessed within the company.
- Company content about specific actions and events that promote diversity and inclusivity.
Here are a few other approaches to consider:
- Promote your cause and policies in multiple places on your site. When a customer shows interest in your social policies, segment them and rework your site experience to bring relevant content, including product info, to the forefront (talk to us about how our Segmented Experiences module can help).
- Consider skipping Black Friday altogether; offer a month-long discount instead (e.g Deciem), shut down sales altogether for the day (as does Cards Against Humanity), or skip the discounts and offer customers the chance to contribute to a cause-based fund when they shop with you that day (like Everlane).
- Give customers the opportunity to contribute user-generated content (UGC) and use it in a campaign celebrating your cause.
- Host employee or customer events that give them a chance to experience and learn about your commitments firsthand, or give back to your cause.
Trend #4: Meet customers where they are
Consumer shopping habits are rapidly changing all the time, and a major 2022 ecommerce trend will be finding ways to keep up with ever-evolving shopper preferences. This includes where they shop, how they pay, how they find you, and what they expect at every step in the customer journey.
With 91% of consumers saying they're likely to continue purchasing more items online in the future in a post-Covid world, the opportunity is ripe for ecommerce to continue growing - but the real winners in this space are going to be the ones who find ways to reach customers beyond a standard ecommerce storefront. This shift is what's led to the rise of headless commerce, which enables stores to provide new 'heads' or shopping experiences as they come up, among other benefits.
Let's break down some of the biggest ecommerce market trends when it comes to connecting with your customers.
Tactic: Put a face to your brand
Social media and influencer marketing is hardly new to amplifying ecommerce brands, however, the manner in which it's used is rapidly changing. First, there's practically always a new platform to stake your claim on. In 2021, one of the biggest growing social channels was definitely TikTok, where 49% of users have said they've purchased something after seeing it advertised, promoted, or reviewed on the app. But other emerging channels like Clubhouse (an audio-only live conversation platform) and Supergreat (a beauty-only interactive platform) are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to other places your brand might want to put in an appearance.
Success is more than simply being on the right platforms. Brands need to find ways to provide 'shoppable' experiences in social setting. And while social media platforms are offering in-app shopping experiences (with Meta's products Facebook and Instagram leading the charge), savvy ecommerce leaders are looking at other ways to cultivate a social experience with audiences they own - whether offering 1:1 interactive video shopping through platforms like Ghost, or 1:many livestream shopping events. The trend of video shopping isn't unfounded either; 37% of online shoppers in China bought something through video shopping last year, with $74 billion in sales during Singles Day alone.
Here's a few options to consider to up the 'human face' side of your business to meet this new ecommerce trend of 2022:
- Test out or invest in livestream / video shopping, including 1:1 and/or 1:many approaches
- Create tailored landing pages and site experiences for shoppers who land on your site from an influencer referral (LimeSpot can help you with our Segmented Experiences module)
- Try out in-app shopping through major social media channels
- Experiment on emerging or niche social media platforms
Tactic: Nurture a community
Not every ecommerce trend right now is a good news story or opportunity. Sometimes, they're challenges that savvy brands will need to overcome. Two major ecommerce trends in 2022 that brands will have to watch out for are the continued rise of marketplaces and a world without cookies.
Marketplaces currently account for the largest share of online purchases made worldwide, and that number is only expected to grow. But for ecommerce brands, marketplaces can spell trouble: You have to work harder to cultivate a loyal audience who may not get (or take) the opportunity to learn about your brand and establish a stronger connection. Much like with social media, brands also face the challenge of not owning their customers (and the customer experience) through marketplace channels.
A second major ecommerce trend right now that doubles as a challenge is living in a post-cookie world in 2022. Google has committed to scrapping third-party tracking cookies in its Chrome browser, moving to a group profiling system that will make it harder for brands to find and connect with new customers in particular.
In both situations, one of the best bets a brand has is to either foster a community or simply monitor ones that customers create on their own. The concept of community is relatively fluid as well - it could be in the form of a fan account on Instagram or TikTok with submissions from brand fans, or an entire Facebook group where multiple members are contributing content and interacting with each other, to name a few.
Connecting deeply with your most loyal fans can help generate more revenue and build a stronger bond with those customers, but it can also motivate customers to act on your behalf and bring other people into the fold of the brands they love. The other big perk of communities is you're connecting with customers in channels they're already actively checking, as opposed to hoping your email will get through. Plus you're getting a goldmine of firsthand feedback. Communities take effort to start, grow, and manage, but if you're building a loyal following they can pay off major dividends for your business.
Here's some some ways to foster a community for your brand:
- Create a company-directed Facebook community and have your social media manager post sneak previews and insider content, while letting other customers generate their own topics and discussions (alternatively, monitor what's going on in communities that have already sprung up!).
- Give followers the opportunity to win big in advance of major product launches or drops by motivating your fans to share previews of your new products to their own social feeds.
- Provide loyalty incentives for people to join your private community - like presales, giveaways, livestreams, or AMAs.
- Encourage community members to refer a friend for some sort of bonus.
- Include an incentive to join your community in all shipped products; particularly when dealing with marketplaces - use your product tags or packaging to drive customers to your community.
Tactic: Make it mobile
Improving the mobile shopping experience has been on many marketer and ecommerce lead's to do list for years, but given the increasing rise of m-commerce, it's still going to be an ecommerce industry trend in 2022. Mobile accounts for 67.2% of all ecommerce, and mobile commerce sales are projected to reach $3.56 trillion by the end of 2021. If you're not optimizing your experience for mobile, expect customers to click away in a heartbeat. Here's some simple and advanced ideas to improve your mobile ecommerce experience:
- Swap your default product images from JPG or PNG to a WebP format to improve quality and loading speed.
- Invest in a mobile app to eliminate load times and streamline common user actions (checkout, check order status, add to wish list, etc.) compared to your default web / desktop experience.
- Integrate live chat or video chat to connect with shoppers on the go.
- Change how your recommendations appear between desktop and mobile (talk to us about how).
- Support digital wallet payments (by 2024, 51.7% of ecommerce transactions will take place through wallets).
- Localize your experience to where a customer is shopping from in terms of currency, shipping, and payment methods.
Trend #5: Understand shoppers and segment them better
Picture walking by a storefront on the street or in a mall. The retailer has one shot - their front window displays - to draw customers in. The same couldn't be further from the truth online, however. Ecommerce brands have the flexibility to change practically every element of their virtual storefront to suit a customer's individual needs and preferences. Yet many brands stick to the same old brick and mortar model - a single image, collection sort order, and copy for every customer. When you're considering ecommerce growth trends in 2022, better adapting to each customer's needs by segmenting them should definitely be up for consideration.
Tactic: Get to know customers from the get go
One of the best ways to better understand and segment your customers is to pay close attention to how you're acquiring them in the first place. Recognize that 74% of consumers are at least somewhat likely to buy based on experience alone. If you can perfect your acquisition and onboarding experience, you're more likely to not only close that first sale, but have customers spread the word as well.
- Run quizzes to segment customers and segment your customers accordingly (e.g. based on budget, gender, style, life situation, career, etc.) to provide custom recommendations and content
- Create a custom site experience based on the UTM that gets a customer to your site (e.g. from ads, social, or influencer promotions - Talk to us about how LimeSpot can help with this)
- Find niche channels or micro-influencers to connect with customers; even if they don't have a huge following or member count, a captive audience of 300 is infinitely more powerful and valuable than a passive audience of 30,000 that may or may not be interested in what you're doing. Use data from micro-influencer promotions to understand which audience groups have the highest potential to be loyal customers and tailor the site experience for them accordingly.
Tactic: Make the next post-purchase experience as amazing as the first time
If you've done everything right and gotten a customer to checkout, congrats! The next step is to focus on retention. A 5% increase in retention can lead to a profit bump of 25% to 95%. It's no wonder then, that optimizing your repeat customer's experience is a key ecommerce trend in 2022, if not forever. This is also a valuable trend if you're concerned about living in a post-cookie world, as retention becomes the cheapest way to grow your bottom line instead of acquisition.
Here are some effective strategies to grow your repeat customer base:
- Use your loyalty program to segment customers and offer them different site experiences and promotions (you guessed it - this is another thing LimeSpot can lend a hand with).
- Insert personalized recommendations into the customer account center to queue up your shoppers' next purchases (same with this).
- Curate your collections so that products a customer are most likely to be interested in based on their past purchasing behavior appear at the top of the collection (and this!)
- Add value by triggering emails that provide personalized tips and demos based on what a customer has bought (and insert recommendations for products that go well with their purchase).
- Invite customers to join an online community to share feedback, tips, and uses.
Trend #6: Invest in artificial intelligence (AI)
The importance and value of artificial intelligence in ecommerce has been talked about for years, and it's once again something being pegged as one to watch among ecommerce consumer trends in 2022. But what does it actually mean, and what are the real benefits for your business? Let's break it down.
51% of ecommerce players have implemented automation technologies to create a better user experience for their customers. And 34% of sales and marketing leaders believe AI is the biggest game-changer when it comes to improving the customer experience.
So where should you be investing when it comes to AI? Here's a few ideas:
- Invest in a smarter chatbot to answer common customer service questions.
- Provide 1:1 personalized recommendations through the buyer journey to drive both conversions and AOV (you can place LimeSpot recommendations anywhere on your site or even in email).
- Integrate AI into your CRM to better understand how to segment your customer, including when to reach out to them and through what channels.
- Try out voice or image search to speed up the time to customers finding exactly what they want on your site.
- Let AI and big data insights guide your demand forecasting.
- Localize the customer shopping experience across prices, logistics, and even copy - for example, relabeling 'jumpers' as 'sweaters' between UK and US shoppers.
- Automate your warehouse operations and delivery processes.
What's your ecommerce New Year's Resolution for 2022?
If there's anything the past two years have taught us, it's that while you can plan, the unexpected can always disrupt even the most thorough and thoughtful strategy. And we always recommend addressing the fundamentals of ecommerce before diving into the big ecommerce trends for 2022.
LimeSpot is a comprehensive personalization platform that can help set your brand up for success across virtually every ecommerce trend outlined here - and then some! Try out our recommendations for yourself for free, or contact us to book a demo and learn more about how LimeSpot can optimize your ecommerce personalization strategy for 2022.