With the 2021 holiday wrapped, it’s time to start reviewing what happened and looking for what’s next. The eCommerce landscape has evolved considerably in the past two years, with the global pandemic accelerating the industry's growth and influencing consumer behavior, which was on full display throughout 2021. Holiday campaigns in 2022 (and broader campaigns throughout the year) will need to meet evolving trends to succeed, and here are some initial thoughts that can shape your efforts going forward. Remember, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
How the eCommerce landscape is changing
The global pandemic dramatically changed the retail landscape, forcing businesses and consumers alike online. Some evolutions were welcome and natural, like the steady growth of mobile shopping, social commerce, and the vitality of better customer experiences. Other changes, such as supply chain issues and the spike in cybercrime, left something to be desired.
Now, as we move towards a post-pandemic era, the eCommerce landscape is evolving further. The key term here is 'evolve' because consumers aren't returning to their pre-pandemic behavior. In-person shopping has certainly picked up again, but eCommerce has still held its ground, and hybrid shopping is gaining traction.
To continue thriving in 2022, eCommerce brands should update their strategies to meet evolving consumer expectations. These shifts include adopting emerging strategies like SMS marketing and earlier holiday campaigns, creating better user experiences, and gaining consumer trust through social proof and enhanced data security.
1. SMS marketing is increasingly effective
You might gravitate towards SMS marketing for the high open rates and CTRs, or quicker read times, but you'll end up sticking with it for many more reasons.
SMS marketing makes it easy for brands to communicate directly and effectively with their customers. But perhaps more importantly, customers are also more receptive to this form of marketing. To put consumer preferences in perspective, here's a helpful chart:
These results shouldn't come as a surprise - we're evolving towards a mobile-first future, with mobile shopping and browsing on rapid growth trajectories.
ECommerce retailers have already realized the importance of a mobile-first user experience. So while making websites responsive for smartphones may already be on your checklist, SMS marketing also plays a vital role in shaping these experiences.
2. Holiday shopping & promotions will begin earlier
ECommerce brands have been experimenting with earlier holiday promotions, and consumer behavior has responded accordingly. In 2020 alone, 40% of consumers began their holiday shopping early in response to brands' pre-holiday campaigns.
Even eCommerce giants like Amazon have gravitated towards earlier holiday campaigns - their 2021 early Black Friday promotion started on November 1. And their Black Friday holiday retail sales lasted 48 hours instead of the usual 24. The mattress industry has also flirted with early holiday sales for a while now, with MattressFirm's 2021 Black Friday sale starting as early as 27 October. Every company and every shopper is starting earlier.
But what's the reason behind these evolving Black Friday eCommerce trends? Well, starting your holiday campaign early helps eCommerce brands:
- Meet evolving consumer expectations. Since consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier, brands need to deliver a relevant offering. Otherwise, your competition will win out.
- Launching promotions early extends your holiday campaign's lifecycle, providing more time for customers to buy and more time for your retargeting efforts to drive conversions.
- ECommerce brands can beat their competition out by offering promotions quicker, capitalizing on holiday sales traffic before consumers become fatigued.
Thus, eCommerce businesses should prioritize early holiday campaigns for their 2022 strategy.
3. Hybrid online & in-person shopping
As the world gradually recovers from the global pandemic, you might expect shoppers to return to brick and mortar. However, this is only partly true - consumer behaviors are changing, and more in-person shopping is gaining traction again, but online shopping is still growing, albeit less rapidly.
So to keep up with trending consumer expectations, businesses need to diversify their offering. Of course, that includes providing both brick and mortar and eCommerce options, but what is expected beyond this?
The answer is hybrid shopping experiences because the future of retail is omnichannel. A hybrid experience can be as simple as a buy online, pickup in-store option. However, more profound implementation of hybrid shopping includes providing customers with mixed experiences at different touchpoints. And, your customers will use these options in multiple ways, including returning products, making exchanges, and discovering what’s new.
4. Customer reviews are just as important as ever
According to TrustPilot, nearly 90% of consumers consult customer reviews before a purchase. Reviews don't just provide prospects with more information, though; they also inspire trust. Countless research has revealed that consumers trust other consumers more, so reviews and testimonials are crucial to driving conversions.
Social proof is just as important as it has ever been, but in an age of misinformation and blackhat tactics, integrity is vital. As an marketer, it's important to prioritize:
- Ease. It should be easy for consumers to leave a review about their experience.
- Diversity. Complimenting ease, consumers should also have multiple options for leaving a review. This means including a review option on your Facebook page, on your website, on your marketplace listings, etc.
- Integrity and transparency. Not only do your reviews need to be legitimate, but it's also crucial to avoid filtering negative reviews. Censoring or manipulating online reviews can kill consumer confidence.
Additionally, there are a couple of best practices you can employ to improve social proof:
- Respond to your customer's reviews, quickly. 97% of customers that read reviews also read your brand's responses, so be sure to show appreciation for positive reviews. And don't overlook the importance of responding to negative reviews with grace, offering to help resolve the customer's pains.
- Show off your reviews. Showcasing customer reviews on your product pages can increase conversions by x3.5, so this strategy is more of a necessity than a practice.
5. Online security is top-of-mind for shoppers
The global pandemic shifted many things digitally, and unfortunately, cybercrime made the list too. Interpol's global threat assessment showed drastic increases in cybercrime in 2020, with malware, ransomware, and phishing sites surging.
Cybercrime presents a direct threat to eCommerce businesses, but beyond this, it also threatens eCommerce sales by discouraging consumer trust. Research by Paysafe found that 65% of respondents considered becoming a victim of fraud to be an inevitability.
And while most shoppers still preferred eCommerce stores to brick and mortar during the pandemic, it's crucial for brands to inspire consumer confidence by implementing necessary security measures.
Some imperative security practices you'll want to consider, if you're not using them already, include:
- Getting an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate for your website. These certificates are vital to safeguard customer information and secure online transactions. Additionally, an SSL certificate lets you move your store from HTTP to HTTPS, which is a trust signal for consumers.
- Using strong, unique passwords. And encourage customers to do the same.
- Leveraging security measures to protect your site against threats. How much security your site needs also depends on the solution you're using. End-to-end solutions like Shopify have strict security measures in place, but if you're using, say, WooCommerce, then you may need to implement your security measures.
In addition to employing these security measures, it's also important to send trust signals to customers. Website design is important here - make sure your eCommerce store doesn't 'look' untrustworthy. You should also include any social proof, links to social media accounts, your policies, and any other measures that inspire consumer confidence.
6. Checkout user experience can make or break your eCommerce holiday season
Optimizing your checkout user experience has never been more important, and what qualifies as 'optimization' has evolved, too.
With hybrid shopping gaining traction, your payment and service options must meet the evolving landscape. This means diversifying your payment options, facilitating major payment methods, and providing multiple checkout options like curbside pickup, expedited shipping, and in-store pickup.
But your offering shouldn't end here. To survive in an increasingly competitive landscape, your customer experience offering must be objectively superior to your competition's. And one way to better cater to consumer trends is to leverage financing options, including buy now, pay later (BNLP) formats.
Buy now, pay later options, in particular, have been strongly correlated with increased conversion rates. Fintech payment diversification platforms like Klarna provide integrations, making it easy for eCommerce retailers to offer installment plans and BNPL options.
However, optimizing your checkout experience doesn't end here. One of the most effective ways to improve your checkout process is through design and interface. This has always held true, but is even more crucial in the growing competitive landscape. So, your checkout design flow should be:
- Relevant. That means providing as much, or as little information as necessary. Don't include any information or options that could confuse buyers.
The 2022 eCommerce holiday season will look different for brands, but not unpredictably so. While consumer behavior continues to change, eCommerce trends are evolving accordingly.
For the upcoming holiday season, brands should prioritize the same fundamental principles but update their strategies. Delivering optimal consumer experiences, meeting consumers at various touchpoints using multi-channel strategies, inspiring consumer confidence through security and social proof, and responding to changing behavior, remain at the forefront of marketing strategy.
But the tools and means for achieving these goals are changing, and it's crucial to stay current.
Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.