As we look back, 2020 and 2021 seem to blend in with each other due to quarantines and isolation brought on by the pandemic. And the lack of public outings have significantly impacted the retail sector – driving even more people to spend their dollars online versus in-store. Which in turn, caused retailers to have to think out-of-the-box to come up with creative ways to engage with consumers who could no longer shop in person.
But with the availability of vaccines and a strong desire for people to get back to normal, 2022 may be different. Let’s take a look at what this new year has in store for the retail industry.
The pandemic showed us more than ever before that a seamless experience is of utmost importance for consumers – no matter where they choose to shop – online, in-store, on social media, through live-streamed videos, or some combination of these.
“Companies will need real synergy between physical and digital retail – better, tighter, assortments that are also hyper personalized to their locations and clients. 2020 and 2021 were the years of quick adoption, 2022 is the year of buckling down and doing it right” advises Katharine McKee, Founder of Morphology Consulting, a digital commerce consultancy.
“Go where your people are and where you can offer value-adds that they care about,” adds McKee. She explains that it’s important to know what is top priority for your customers so you can deliver the best experience catered to their needs. “If it’s speed of purchase, focus on image shopping on Facebook or Instagram. If it is lookalike buys, such as color or style variations, then focus on Instagram shoppable posts with links to a shopping landing page rather than directly adding to cart. If it is authenticity and vetting with regard to more than the style or fit, look to influencers within TikTok.” She emphasizes that it’s incredibly important to align your goal and your audience desire to the system that they trust – where they feel secure and comfortable.
“We see seamless purchasing through social media growing significantly in 2022. It’s increasingly important for direct-to-consumer brands to provide customers with channels outside of their website and on the platforms customers are already using to make online purchases. We have noticed that our customers are increasingly using social media to find answers and solutions. Therefore, it is no surprise that conversions to purchase are much higher in those moments where we provide solutions and options on our social media channels,” shares Aishwarya Balaji, CEO & Cofounder of A Fresh Sip, an alcohol-free beverage platform.
“Synergized product assortments and cross channel merchandising are key. The importance of presenting a united front across digital and physical locations has never been more important. This spans all facets of the business from branding, to customer service, and of course product assortment. As we give customers more tools to shop in the digital world they expect to have the same experience across channels. In my opinion, the most important of these is a curated assortment meaning a true understanding of what the customer wants from you in each channel. To achieve this, brands and retailers must know their customer through not just their online data but also by applying qualitative information to the equation,” advises Hillary Cullum, Founder of HSC Advisors, a retail consultancy.
“As brands shift more of their efforts into e-commerce and digital growth, personalized consumer experiences will become the norm. Regardless of whether a brand is selling laundry detergent, or luxury goods – marketers are getting smarter about getting the right message to the right eyes. Personalized landing page experiences, email journeys, ads, and offers are all a part of this evolution,” says Jen Wan, Cofounder and CMO of Soteri Skin, a company providing skincare for eczema.
As personalization becomes more readily available, consumers are coming to expect it rather than look at it as a specialty – making it even more important for brands to include personalization in their product and marketing strategies.
Live shopping is proving to be the next big thing in retail, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. People have been craving human connection and interaction since the early stages of the pandemic and now that it’s been the reality for two years, an option to safely connect in realtime with other people is a welcome solution to our current lifestyle.
The livestream shopping market in the U.S., which is supported mostly by Generation Z and Millennials, is predicted to be worth $25 billion by 2023, according to Coresight Research.
“We will see greater adoption of live-streaming as a sales channel,” says Wan. “In lieu of in-person retail, consumers want to be able to connect with their brands authentically. Live-streaming is a great way to put a relatable face on the screen, while sharing products in an unfiltered, authentic way.”
“We will see the continued rise of conscious consumption fueled by the growth of the secondhand industry. Long gone are the days when massive marketplaces were your only option. For 2022 and beyond, resale will become more niche, more personal, and more fun – driving consumer behavior to shop sustainably in modalities just as easily as Amazon,” says Haley Lieberman, CEO and founder, Shop Tomorrows, a next-gen social re-commerce network.
“Consumers are more self educated and aware than ever before and are increasingly making purchasing decisions on factors that are more complex than price and availability. Brands that encompass social principles such as sustainability, diversity owned, and transparent manufacturing practices will see more consumer support,” says Cullum.
Consumer expectations continue to rise and 2022 will be no different. Brands need to deliver transparency in business practices, a seamless experience across all channels, elevated in-store experiences, the latest technological advances, and personalized, engaging experiences both online and offline to maintain customer loyalty.
As John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. put it, “Loyalty in retail is the absence of something better. When they find it, they’re gone.”