Whilst the rest of 2021 might not have seen ecommerce adoption hit the heights of January of that year (nearly 38% of total retail sales in the UK), comparisons to 2019 still show how things have changed. Holiday shopping now looks to be roughly 30%+ online, compared to c. 21% pre-pandemic.

So, looking in the crystal ball for 2022, from personalisation to sustainability, omnichannel to cross-border, we’ve collected some ecommerce trends from various data, martech and retail experts. We hope you find them useful, and do feel free to share your own thoughts below.

A clear value exchange for customer data

Hannah Stacey, Brand and Product Marketing Director, Ometria:

“From the rise of ‘walled garden’ ad networks to the death of third party cookies to the privacy measures rolled out in iOS15, marketers are having to contend with a huge mindset shift from the way they’re currently doing things. But far from being daunting, this trend – of handing consumers more power over the marketing they receive and the data they share – is both a) very positive and b) not going away any time soon.

“Why is this so great? For consumers, it means that brands actively have to work hard to give us something in return for our data – a great experience – or else face the consequences of us freely and easily being able to withdraw marketing consent at the tap of a button. For marketers, personalisation is the ultimate antidote to these changes; the best way of ensuring that consumers stay engaged, happy, and not in a position to pull the plug. Essentially, this comes down to being able to own and fine tune the customer experience at every brand touchpoint – from email to social to SMS to app push to in-store – wherever.”

Lynette Saunders, Senior Analyst, Econsultancy:

“2021 continued to show that customers are demanding more relevant and personalised experiences.  With Google now set to block third-party cookies in Chrome from 2023, we will see brands in 2022 continue their focus on collecting first-party data.

“However, our Future of Marketing survey shows only 56% of marketers believe their organisation offers a clear value exchange in return for customers sharing their data. With companies all vying for the same customer data, marketers will need to think carefully about what they are offering customers in return for their data, being transparent about how they are using it and how it will benefit the customer.

“I think Ikea do this exceptionally well with their people-centric approach, where they explain how they are doing this – giving control to their users – and show the benefits of a personalised experience, but one which customers can, at any point, switch off.”

Availability, flexibility, and contingency planning

Harvey Ma, VP of Omni, Consumer & Retail Performance of North America, NielsenIQ:

“…availability, flexibility, and contingency planning should be key focus areas for retailers to prevent panic shopping this year. One tactic retailers should utilize to jump on this prevention is content syndication across all platforms. This is not only important for product transparency but ensuring searchability. In an online environment where a failed search result is the same as out-of-stock, high-quality product content is a foundational building block that should be prioritized.”

Empathy and flexibility: The future of online retail

The line between digital and physical blurs

Mendel Gniwisch, EVP of Business Development, stor.ai:

“The line between the physical and digital worlds is becoming increasingly blurred. So far, this trend has, for the most part, not yet reached in-store shopping, but 2022 is the year where we will see a hybrid digital-physical model coming into stores. In the face of growing competition from disruptive innovators providing services like 15-minute grocery delivery, traditional retailers will need to reimagine their position in the market.

“To maintain both profits and customer satisfaction, grocers are set to adopt a new model, whereby the majority of center-store items will be sold online only, while in-store shopping will be transformed into a market-like experience where customers can touch, smell and taste unique products and enjoy new experiences. Robotics and automation will streamline order fulfillment and make it more profitable, both for online orders and for center-store products that customers can buy using an application tailored for the new generation of market-like stores. Methods like these bridge the gap between digital and physical grocery shopping experiences and offer the customer the best of both worlds: the efficiency of online shopping alongside the sights and sounds which characterize in-store shopping.”

Yaniv Navot, CMO, Dynamic Yield:

“As we turn the page to 2022, we believe that personalization is on the path to becoming ubiquitous, acting as the cornerstone of the customer experience ecosystem and taking a variety of forms in both the physical and online world. As a result, we anticipate that businesses will require flexible implementation methods and greater connectivity across the stack to synchronize experiences, as well as AI and automation to continuously optimize all digital touchpoints. And given the increased collaboration of business and technical teams required, proper education and enablement will be a priority.”

Rose Keen, Senior Analyst, Econsultancy:

“The relationship between online and offline store experiences will continue to be a focus in 2022. In order to create connected omnichannel experiences, brands will need to link customer data across digital and in-store transactions and interaction. To do this we will likely see more experimentation with loyalty schemes, options to book consultations, personalised offers and other incentives to encourage customers to both set up accounts and share them while in-store.

“This will have the added benefit of building valuable first-party data as retailers and brands prepare for the post-third-party cookie era.”

Ecommerce Best Practice Guide

‘Buy now, pay later’ popularity continues

Elian Schweizer, Global Head of Product Management, PPRO:

“While installment payment methods have been around for years, the rise of “Buy Now, Pay Later” mobile apps and payment methods have taken off since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more people shopped online and the ecommerce landscape expanded globally, we saw more consumers utilizing mobile payment apps like Klarna and Affirm to pay for goods and services. In 2022, I expect to see greater adoption of BNPL apps, especially in untapped markets like Latin America, forcing retailers to offer BNPL or partner with new payment services to keep up with demand.

“At the same time, the increasing popularity of BNPL has raised compliance and security concerns, which resulted in an increase in regulations moving into 2022. For retail companies adopting BNPL, it’s important to have the right partner to reduce the complexity of your compliance needs. Instead, retailers can focus on the seamless payment experience that BNPL provides for consumers.”

Harvey Ma, NielsenIQ:

“Buy now, pay later isn’t just a fad. This is not a new concept, in fact, the trend mirrors traditional credit card transactions but offers different benefits, most notably the lack of high-interest fees and the illusion of lower prices..”

International brands shift focus to China

Elena Gatti, MD Europe, Azoya:

“When looking at the Chinese ecommerce market, I see several trends coming up next year. One of them results from ongoing global restrictions due to Covid-19 which has shifted the focus of international brands towards China. As Chinese consumers are currently not travelling the world, more and more brands “travel” to China and offer their products to consumers on local channels – both online and offline. Let’s look at Tmall Global as an example: From 2017 to 2020, the number of online merchants on Tmall Global increased rapidly, with a compound annual growth rate of 55.2%. From January to March 2020, the opening store rate of overseas brands on Tmall Global increased by 327% year on year. As of March 2020, 78 countries and more than 22,000 overseas brands have entered Tmall Global.”

A marketer’s guide to China’s key social media and ecommerce trends

An exciting year for retail media

Phil Duffield, VP UK, The Trade Desk:

“2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year for our industry for many reasons – but one of the things I’m most excited about is the surge in retail media. We saw many powerhouse retail players take significant steps into this space over the past year, including Walmart, which we were proud to work with on the launch of its DSP. In the UK, we’ve also seen retailers closer to home following in its footsteps, with Tesco recently announcing that it was establishing itself as a retail owner.

“These moves are unsurprising when you consider that retailers are sat on a pool of shopper insights that is hard to rival – in fact, our recent ‘The Future of Retail’ report found that 81% of consumers have at least one digital account with a retailer, showing the sheer scale of the data available. This wealth of knowledge means retailers are perfectly placed to partner with advertisers – offering brands the opportunity to leverage their own data alongside the retailer’s insights. On top of this, retailers offer the elusive ability to close the measurement loop, joining online with offline. This is a game changer for marketers looking to accurately understand the impact of their campaigns.

“As the industry continues to wrestle with the thorny issues of cookie depreciation and the walled gardens, it’s easy to see why retail will be sat alongside mobile and CTV as a go-to channel to help marketers achieve their goals in the new year.” 

Live commerce goes global

Rose Keen, Econsultancy:

“Up until now, live commerce has struggled to gain a foothold outside of Asia. This appears to be changing with shifts in consumer behaviour and the arrival of new technologies and specifically social media app functionality supporting its wider adoption.

“The coming year will likely see more brands experimenting with live commerce as part of an omnichannel strategy. One interesting trend is the leveraging of internal talent as livestream hosts.”

The realities of personalisation

Hannah Stacey, Ometria:

“We’ve been talking about personalisation for what feels like a very long time – it shows up in every trend report since I can remember. And if I were writing this even 3 or 4 years ago, access to first party data to power this personalisation would still present a significant challenge, but the rise of the Customer Data Platform category in recent years is largely putting pay to that issue.

“The challenge now – that centralised data alone can’t fix – is leveraging that data to orchestrate and execute personalised experiences in ways that customers love. And rolling out individually-personalised marketing messages to millions of customers over scores of different channels isn’t possible for humans alone – from an insight perspective or a purely operational one. This is where combined customer data and marketing technologies come to the fore – enabling marketers to use AI and automation to pick up the heavy lifting for them.”

Sustainability is becoming more than a nice-to-have

Kaushalya Somasundaram, Head of UK Payments Partnerships & Industry Relations, Square:

“Sustainability has been a big focus of 2021, as shown by the wide interest in COP26. However, as we move into 2022, we will see an even bigger demand for businesses to become more eco- and environment-friendly. With more consumers shopping online – our research showed that 57% of the UK public are buying more online than before the pandemic – using environmentally friendly materials and packaging is moving from a nice-to-have to a must.

“Our survey also showed that 37% of consumers want to see businesses using environmentally friendly materials. As many continue to take customer demands and expectations seriously, we expect to see an even bigger push towards eco-friendly and sustainable materials. Great strides have already been made over the past 12 months, for example this year 47% of businesses started using environmentally friendly packaging whilst 32% of retailers started engaging with sustainability/recycling and waste management efforts, but more is coming.”

B2B meets B2C meets D2C

Rick Wilson, CEO, Miva:

“…B2B/Wholesale sellers will take notes on what’s been learned from B2C sellers in 2021. The intuitive, personalized, engagement-oriented B2C ecommerce experience is increasingly expected by the modern B2B customer, who has been trained by two decades of sophisticated consumer-facing buying experiences. The sharp rise of ecommerce will only accelerate this trend into the next three to five years.

“Long-term, this will lead to selling B2B, B2C, and DTC on a single website becoming the new norm. Having the ability to sell wholesale, retail, and direct-to-consumer on a single site gives sellers the best of all worlds, allowing them to use a central command center to get the most out of every channel.”

The power of influence goes beyond social platforms

Alexander Frolov, CEO & Co-Founder, HypeAuditor:

“Brands should remember that the power of influence is everywhere and not simply confined on social media platforms. The recent launch of ITV’s new shoppable TV feature, in the UK, during the latest season of Love Island, in partnership with retailer Boots, illustrates this. This new feature enabled viewers to shop directly on the Boots’ website any products featured on the show. Brands need to recognise this and consider their influencer marketing beyond social media platforms.”

Aligning ecommerce activation and shopper marketing data with media investment data

Hasan Arik, Founder and CEO, Redmill Solutions:

“Over the next 12 months, brand advertisers are going to be joining up their investment dots to gain a better understanding of their customer and brand equity. These unified data views will provide a more complete picture of the entire marketing funnel, and allow brands to align their Ecommerce activation and shopper marketing data with their advertising media investment data, resulting in a clearer understanding of attribution and ROI.”

“This harmonisation of all digital performance data, including ecommerce activation, will allow brands to make quicker and better investment decisions. It will also provide the opportunity for brands to own and understand their final customer.”