eCommerce Trends for 2022
eCommerce experienced a complicated 2021. While overall revenue growth continued upwards, shifting consumer expectations and—of course—COVID-19 presented eCommerce businesses with new challenges to navigate.
However, emerging technologies, eCommerce site integrations, and consumer engagement methods that further evolved throughout the pandemic provide solutions to these challenges. As we enter into a new year, these developments continue to—or will start to—influence eCommerce trends, and early adopters can leverage them to increase engagement and sales.
Capitalizing on the upcoming 2022 eCommerce trends will help your business recover from the economic effects of COVID-19 and increase your foothold in the marketplace.
The Continuing Effects of COVID-19
The pandemic’s ramifications are simply unavoidable, regardless of your business’ operations. This means that it affects all of the other 2022 trends.
Specifically for eCommerce, the situation has significantly driven a new online shopping boom. This is largely due to social distancing restrictions and individual health and safety concerns further incentivizing consumers to shop online. As a result, eCommerce transaction volumes have skyrocketed on top of pre-pandemic growth trends.
Overall eCommerce revenue in 2020 totaled over $431 billion, with 2021 projections—released in September—surpassing $469 billion. In the next two years, eCommerce revenue is estimated to double 2017’s totals.
To that end, 2021’s Q2 alone broke quarter earnings records for eCommerce businesses, totaling $220 billion.
The Returns Challenge
Despite COVID-influenced growth, all retail operations grappled with return rates in 2020 that cost an estimated $1 out of every $10 of gross sales. Furthermore, according to the National Retail Federation, eCommerce return rates that year doubled. 2021 will likely close with similar statistics. A survey conducted in the first half of 2021 revealed that 44% of respondents had returned something they purchased online in the previous year.
Potential solutions for this returns challenge can be found in some of 2022’s eCommerce trends.
COVID-19 Shipping and Supply Chain Challenges
While overall eCommerce numbers continue to rise, they could also be much higher—if not for the cumulative effects of COVID-19 on supply chains and shipping.
Highly integrated supply chains are like complex machinery: their ability to achieve substantial efficiencies through specialization and optimized logistics depends entirely on the successful integration of numerous components. However, when one component breaks down, the entire operation is brought to a grinding halt—and COVID-19 tossed more than a few monkey wrenches into supply-side integrations, including:
As a result, PWC’s 2021 Future of Consumer Markets Report has identified supply chain optimization technologies as a critical component for all businesses moving forward. eCommerce, in particular, will be able to use these technologies and aggregated consumer data to better predict and accommodate demand, along with greater supply chain visibility (e.g., stock movement, inventory).
Respondents to PWC’s survey indicated that advanced supply chain technologies provided improvements as much as 7.7% across revenue benefits and 6.8% across cost benefits.
Evolving Consumer Expectations
As consumer preferences change, so too must eCommerce businesses. At one point, the inherent conveniences and accessibility that eCommerce offered over traditional brick-and-mortar shopping proved to be massively disruptive on its own.
However, new innovations are necessary to keep pace with changing consumer behavior and expectations and increased industry competition.
Regarding the overall online shopping experience, meeting 2022 consumer expectations depends on how you reach consumers, attract them to your brand, and further streamline the purchasing process.
A successful eCommerce strategy begins with reaching your potential customers. As more and more players enter the eCommerce space, standing out and proving more attractive than your competition has never been more critical.
Simply launching a quick and basic online storefront before waiting for sales is like setting up a lemonade stand on a deserted road. Or—more accurately—it’s setting up your stand in the far-back corner at the lemonade fair. Either way, the results are the same.
Social Media Engagement
Commonly touted eCommerce advice insists you have a social media presence. Statistics such as 84% of US consumers checking social media before making online purchases reinforces this belief. While this holds true, an effective social media strategy must be designed to meet your potential customers where they already are, provide content that entices them, and integrate with broader marketing strategies.
For example, Twitter use significantly decreases with older demographics:
Similarly, Instagram and TikTok are overwhelmingly favored by younger populations. However, the right platform alone is not enough. You also need to optimize posting times, post lengths, and more based upon your consumer base’s social media habits.
DotcomWeavers and BULLS Bikes
Integrating your social media strategy with broader marketing efforts pays dividends. For example, in our work with BULLS Bikes, we helped establish a coordinated approach across social media, SEO, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. This multi-channel strategy achieved a 400% increase in online sales and an 18x return on ad spend (ROAS).
ESG—Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance Practices
One of the fastest-growing trends among consumers is a heightened scrutiny of business’ values and culture. Consumers want to support companies that reflect their own beliefs and ethics. As a result, they’re increasingly considering the environmental, social, and corporate governance practices of the businesses they buy from, and these ESG efforts provide a unique type of consumer engagement.
Amongst the earliest and most successful ESG marketing endeavors was REI’s “Opt-Outside” campaign, countering the American retail tradition of “Black Friday.” Stores were closed, no online purchases were processed, and employees were given the day off instead.
The result? There was a 7000% increase in social media impressions and 2.7 billion total media impressions on the campaign’s launch day.
The initially one-off PR campaign has become an annual REI event and central part of their branding and marketing strategy. While “#OptOutside” first began in 2015, ESG’s importance to consumers has only grown since.
Over 75% of respondents to a 2021 Consumer Intelligence survey conducted by PWC stated that “they’ll reward companies” for positive ESG efforts. As—if not more—important, over 75% also answered that they’d no longer purchase from businesses that demonstrate poor ESG records.
Especially for business-to-consumer (B2C) eCommerce, your social media marketing efforts stand out further and foster brand loyalty when you highlight your ESG practices.
Multi-Channel and Alternative Purchasing Processes
In addition to multi-channel, diversified marketing strategies, eCommerce businesses must also adapt their purchasing processes to cater to new consumer preferences. Convenience remains a top consumer demand, but the means of achieving easy, rapid eCommerce purchases have evolved.
In early 2021, PWC identified mobile commerce (i.e., m-commerce) as the fastest-growing channel. Late 2021 estimates released in October seem to confirm this. This year’s m-commerce activity projects to comprise 72.9% of all eCommerce transactions—a 14% jump over the previous year.
To take advantage of mobile shoppers, eCommerce businesses must ensure that their sites are optimized accordingly. According to Magento’s own blog, mobile eCommerce optimization includes:
Voice shopping is a complicated trend, and many eCommerce businesses may adopt a “wait-and-see” approach before fully pursuing the technology.
Only a few years ago, voice assistants on mobile and smart home devices were projected to significantly change online and eCommerce landscapes. In 2017, usage was predicted to jump 21%. In 2018, the voice shopping segment of eCommerce was expected to surpass $40 billion by this year.
eCommerce businesses looking to take advantage of the latest trends may see these figures still parroted around the internet today. However, recent research suggests that voice shopping may be stalling out—if not declining.
Voice Search and Shopping Regressions
According to a September report compiled by The Manifest, per-week usage of voice search (inclusive of voice shopping) has dropped from 53% in 2018 to merely 18% in 2021.
Further, 60% of survey respondents stated they never utilized voice search functionality in 2021, and 42% used it for information requests (e.g., “what’s the weather forecast today?”) rather than shopping.
The primary drivers of this regression are the functionality’s accuracy when interpreting voice commands and providing results and, even more importantly, data security and privacy. If your eCommerce business has yet to pursue adding comprehensive voice search and shopping, you may wish to hold off on going “all-in.”
Social media isn’t only for marketing and (potential) customer engagement anymore.
Major platforms have developed purchasing technology directly within their apps, and while Instagram’s launched in 2019 and TikTok partnered with Shopify in 2020, social commerce functionality has recently surged. However, Facebook remains the top social commerce platform, with Insider Intelligence’s data estimating 56.1 million active consumers in 2021.
In the last two years, social commerce has grown 38.9% and then 35.8%. As a result, this eCommerce segment now totals $36.62 billion.
The ultimate in eCommerce convenience is “one-click” checkout functionality. Consumers view a product and then, with a single click, place an order (although some integration options require a second click for confirmation).
Although online shopping carts are abandoned at a rate of roughly 70%, a study by the Baymard Institute revealed that nearly 60% of US eCommerce shoppers abandoned a cart in the previous three months because they were merely window shopping.
Still, 49% of survey respondents abandoned a cart because the additional costs factored in during checkout (e.g., tax, shipping) were too high, and another 18% did so because they found the process “too long/complicated.”
eCommerce businesses should investigate any functionality or integration that reduces abandoned cart rates. The ability of “one-click” checkout functionality to speed consumers through the purchasing process both meets their demands for convenience and directly targets cart abandonment.
“One-Click” Checkout Considerations
eCommerce businesses should keep two concerns in mind with this convenience:
If additional fees aren’t accounted for in the listed pricing or checkout confirmation for “one-click” purchases, consumers may take issue with the higher total price and feel misled.
This could cause them to initiate returns or “chargebacks” (i.e., returned payment after a successful charge dispute) or take their future business elsewhere. Companies should consider implementing the “second click” as one method for ensuring consumers know the final price of their order.
Critically, eCommerce businesses must also adopt the most robust data protection measures to safeguard consumers’ information. Since “one-click” checkouts require saved payment and shipping data, the functionality is dependent on strict security. A data breach that compromises your customers’ sensitive data will result in significant reputational damage.
Augmented and Virtual Reality Assistance
One of the most exciting trends that eCommerce businesses need to monitor and take advantage of in 2022 are the benefits of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). The most significant disadvantage that traditional brick-and-mortar stores have always held over their eCommerce counterparts is the ability to see products in person.
That’s changing rapidly.
For example, previous online furniture purchases were reliant on consumers accurately visualizing the listed product’s styling, colors, and dimensions within their own living space.
Now, however, AR and VR will allow them to actually view potential purchases within their own homes. These technological advancements remove consumers’ guesswork that increases the likelihood of returns.
Similarly, suppose you wanted to purchase a new watch and sunglasses—but you aren’t sure how large the former’s face will look on your wrist or how the latter will frame your own. Again, AR and VR will show you immediately.
AR and VR Visualization Improves eCommerce Conversions
Even though a 2019 Google survey had already indicated that two-thirds of respondents were interested in leveraging AR to visualize potential purchases, this development has recently progressed in-part due to COVID-19. With consumers left unable to visit brick-and-mortar locations, direct visualization became that much more critical to the purchasing process.
Even after physical store locations have reopened, health and safety considerations still limit much of what consumers can try, wear, touch, and so on. Though usage data remains new, early indications are immensely favorable towards the AR and VR eCommerce trends in 2022.
Shopify has reported that some product pages featuring 3D AR have increased conversion rates by 2.5x.
Seize Opportunities in 2022 with DotcomWeavers
2022’s expected eCommerce trends generally bear similarities. Consumers desire convenient experiences provided by businesses on the channels they frequent and match their personal beliefs. eCommerce businesses seek solutions to continuing COVID-19 challenges and are looking to further adapt innovations to support their post-pandemic activities.
Sifting through these trends and determining which ones provide the best growth opportunities for your business requires industry expertise—across both strategy and deployment. For over 14 years, DotcomWeavers has established itself as a leading eCommerce developer for Adobe Commerce and other platforms and who provides top-level advisory to our partners.