From 5G to m-commerce, from virtual clienteling to livestream shopping, here are the trends that will transform ecommerce in 2022.
In early 2020, ecommerce was already booming, but the restrictions of the pandemic pushed online shopping into overdrive. While people remained at home, online shopping rose to an all-time high. According to the report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in 2021, global ecommerce sales rose to almost $4.8 trillion and climbing.
In a rapidly evolving landscape such as this, it is critical that all of us in the retail industry are prepared for new trends and consumer preferences. With the right tools, we can make the most of our inventory, maximize customer reach, shorten the purchase journey, and generate high value SQLs.
Let’s dive into the ecommerce trends to expect in 2022.
1. 5G will trigger an explosion in live shopping and video commerce
It has already been 10 years since India received 4G (Airtel launched the first 4G services in 2012) and adoption has been fast. According to Nokia’s India Mobile Broadband Index, in the 5 years between 2015-2020, 4G users have grown to over 700 million users. Out of this, 46% users access e-tail and e-B2B through their devices, while 54% use them for social media, YouTube, and OTT video.In 2022, India will begin rolling out a new, superfast 5G network. At our current speeds, India spends approximately 5 hours on their smartphones every day, beating even China; and short videos are becoming the fastest growing format. Live video shopping is going to become one of the most exciting ways to shop.
2. Your sales staff will become your most important assets
In a survey done by TimeTrade, a leading provider of online appointment scheduling, it was found that 90% of customers are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable associate. With a team that is already trained to offer guidance and information to browsing customers, brands can see as much as 5x conversion rates by adding virtual shopping to their online sales strategy.
When it comes to livestreaming, influencers and celebrities bring much to the table, but can be expensive in the long-term. Many brands find it more financially viable to use their already efficient sales team as hosts for livestream. Customers appreciate the ‘realness’ of employees and the quick answers to questions, and are more likely to feel confident buying from the brand.
3. Virtual clienteling will become as important (if not more) as on-ground customer service
One of the biggest challenges of ecommerce is to turn first-time buyers into lifelong customers. By offering virtual clienteling through WhatsApp, SMS, email, video call and more, your brand can develop a rapport with the customer that lasts beyond the initial purchase.
In 2020, the retail industry learned that ecommerce could bring in revenue even when lockdowns and restrictions on movement impacted brick-and-mortar stores. By building a strong virtual shopping experience, brands can remain agile at all times.
4. D2C will explode, and mission-driven brands will be the next big thing
A study by Deloitte found that brands that are driven by purpose report a higher market share and grow 3X times faster than competition. Nobody can ignore the calls to #shoplocal and #supportsmallbusinesses and D2C brands with a unique voice and purpose will become more visible in the retail landscape.
Around the world, conscious shoppers are choosing to amplify independent brands with whom they feel a connection. This is where small businesses have a rare edge over retail giants – by showing who you are, you are more likely to find your champions. Many brands use virtual shopping or one-to-many livestreams to take customers behind the scenes and show them the beating heart of the company.
5. Authentic content to take centerstage
As every marketer knows, influencers and celebrities can grab eyeballs easily, but as consumers are bombarded with celeb-endorsed products and news about paid followers, the trust factor is considerably diminished. For product demos and tutorials, micro- and nano-influencers are becoming more likely to bring sales in. According to this article in Forbes, the engagement between influencers with a smaller audience of followers is higher and more intimate, therefore more reliable.
But an influencer of any size can be expensive. For brands who are just entering the livestream shopping space, it is not always possible to bring an influencer or a celebrity on board. This won’t matter as much in the coming years, as authentic content becomes more important. Your own retail associates can become successful virtual shopping hosts, allowing you to optimize your sales staff and their deep product and brand knowledge.
6. Dark stores will become more popular
In the post-pandemic world, we are likely to see many retail stores turning into ‘dark stores’ as business models evolve to suit the new world of shopping. Online orders will continue to rise, making it more feasible to convert retail spaces into logistics centres. An article in Economic Times covers the rise of the trend in India.
A dark store is a physical space that is used to fulfil orders, store inventory, and maintain a physical presence to cater to online shoppers. Brands can save on the costs of multiple retail outlets that must provide a fully branded (and expensive) experience to the few customers who walk in. With a centralized location, the man-hours of the staff can be put to better use – engaging with customers with higher buying intent, and managing supply chain and fulfilment. Many brands use these dark stores for filming virtual shopping video content.
7. More brands will shift to livestream retail
Until 2020, livestream ecommerce was largely only popular in the cosmetics, personal care, and fashion industry. However the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic catapulted ecommerce and livestream shopping to the forefront. According to the Ernst & Young Future Consumer Index of early 2021, 60% of consumers are visiting physical stores less than they did before the pandemic. 43% of consumers have said they shop online for products that they would previously have bought in-store.
As this trend increases, we can expect industries with a traditionally physical presence – real estate, automobile, financial services, medical and dental – will shift to online models in which livestream shopping will play a large part.
8. M-commerce or mobile shopping will rise exponentially
As mentioned above, the 5G boom is still in its nascence, especially in India. As 5G penetrates more demographics of an already-online audience, m-commerce will become the ‘next big thing’. This article in Business Insider predicts that mobile shopping will become the preferred way of shopping for online purchases.
For most brands, this means brands will have to offer mobile-friendly content as well as full integration with major payment gateways.
9. Personalization will contribute more to Add-to-Cart and AOV
It came as a surprise to many that customers are more willing to share personal data in order to receive more customized options and service. This eye-opening study by Deloitte concluded that not only are customers looking for personalized products or services; a majority of them are comfortable paying more for them.
The study went so far as to say that businesses that do not offer personalized service will risk losing revenue and customers. With the one-to-one virtual shopping feature offered by Swirl, brands have seen 400% increase Add-to-Cart and as much as 7X more engagement.
10. Customers will demand seamlessness
If you think all this seems complex and heavily tech-oriented, you’re not alone. One of our central predictions for online shopping in 2022 is that consumers will demand one thing above all else: simplicity. In the coming decade, customers will expect the one-click ease that big brands offer, with the personalized service that boutique brands offer. Simplicity and seamlessness will be keywords for the future.
In the world of ecommerce and virtual shopping, there is an intricate amount of detailing that goes into making things simple. Brands must be able to offer smooth integrations between ecommerce platforms and payment gateways, adaptive websites and video content, single-click access to options and services.
If 2020 was a year for enduring and accepting, 2021 is the year in which great evolution and adaptation has taken place across industries. As the second year of the pandemic comes to an end, there are still uncertainties and vulnerabilities for every business. But one thing is certain: the way forward has begun to emerge, and agile brands that have adapted to the new world have already started seeing the difference.