If 2020 was the year everything changed, 2021 has been the year where we all reassessed what was important to us. We cheered on our favorite Olympians, made sustainability a priority, and cherished socializing again.
In retail, brands have been pulled in a lot of directions and have had to refocus too.
While on one hand ecommerce sales spurred by the pandemic are showing no signs of slowing down (Adobe predicted that ecommerce sales would hit $4.2 trillion this year) brands have also been faced with new challenges. Digital advertising has become more competitive as more customers opt-out of marketing comms. Beyond digital, fulfillment and supply chain challenges have left retailers scrambling for ways to keep customers happy.
As 2021 comes to a close, we’re looking forward and predicting what 2022 holds. Keep reading for the five trends we think are going to shape ecommerce next year, and what you can do to keep up.
Preparing for a world without third-party cookies
2021 saw multiple iOS updates and Google confirmed they’ll be phasing out third-party cookies on Chrome towards the end of 2023.
For years, brands have benefitted from third-party data to track website visitors, improve their user experience and target the right audiences. But, next year, brands will need to plan how they’ll collect the right information on customers to continue to deliver personalized shopping experiences.
Next year we’ll see brands adapt by finding innovative ways to motivate customers to opt-in and share their data.
One way to do this would be to give customers extra value for sharing their information. This could be in exchange for exclusive experiences (like online styling sessions or early access to new products before others). RBX Active shows customers that by sharing their product preferences they’ll get news on new arrivals and their latest exclusives.
Or, brands should reward customers little wins for the more data they share. Black Rifle Coffee gives customers loyalty points for completing their “Coffee Quiz”. These preferences give the brand more data they can use to retarget with down the line.
By putting the power back into the hands of the consumer and letting them decide how and when to share their data, brands next year will benefit from being able to continue to deliver personalized experiences. Meanwhile, these experiences will retain customers for longer and increase their lifetime value.
Customer service will become a priority
Over the Black Friday Cyber Monday peak, stock and fulfillment shortages left brands in the lurch. The shortages aren’t going away either: 100% of retail executives say they expect the disruptions to continue in 2022.
To react, next year we’ll see more brands being transparent with their customers about the challenges they’re facing and how they’re adapting to give the best experience.
I also think we’ll see more brands step up their customer service capabilities by connecting up their tech stack. To solve customer complaints, stores could connect their loyalty program up with their helpdesk so they can reward shoppers with loyalty points as an apology.
Or, brands may choose to segment their customers and give varying levels of service depending on their loyalty to the store. For example, Happy Mammoth uses loyalty tiers to give customers who have spent and engaged less free shipping only on orders over $90. Whereas the most loyal customers in their “Insider VIP” tier get lifetime free shipping on all orders.
By bringing customer service to the fore and prioritizing specific segments, stores will see increased brand loyalty. VIPs will feel cared for and valued even if their order can’t be fulfilled. Meanwhile, relationships won’t be damaged with other customers as stores will be able to set and meet expectations.
Omnichannel shopping will remain alive and well
This year, online retailers, like Gymshark, have released plans to take their online success to physical retail. These brands adapted successfully enough online that they’re confident their customers will follow them offline too. Similarly, click-and-collect has remained a preference for many shoppers even though physical stores have reopened.
Omnichannel shopping will remain very much alive and well into 2022.
Next year, I think we’ll see more marketers making sure their customers get a consistent experience with their brand wherever they choose to shop. The success of this will depend on how well retailers integrate all their tools and messaging so customers feel recognized and rewarded across every interaction.
We’re already seeing some brands unite the online and offline experience by rewarding loyalty points for completing in-store activities. Astrid & Miyu give points every time a customer comes into the store and recycles old jewelry. They can then use these points on future online purchases.
Conscious consumerism will remain front of mind
Conscious consumerism isn’t going anywhere. Shoppers will continue to engage with and buy from brands based on what they represent – for example, whether or not they’re eco-friendly.
Even over Black Friday this year, consumers responded well to brands that offered rewards that let them donate to charities. These custom rewards were claimed 4x more over the weekend compared to a regular weekend. Plus, 62% of customers say they would join a loyalty program if they knew the rewards had a positive impact on causes they cared about.
Next year, we’re going to see more brands speak up about their values (for example, if they support a charity) as a way to connect with customers emotionally.
For example, health and wellness brand, Wild Nutrition, lets their customers claim their loyalty points in exchange for the brand planting five trees in Rwanda or giving a donation to Plastic Oceans UK on their behalf.
“Our customers love that they can redeem discounts towards their orders, with many of them really appreciating the option to donate their points towards our chosen charitable partners.”
Tessa Smart, Customer Case Specialist at Wild Nutrition
A shift in digital ad focus
With the cost of digital advertising still rising, I think we’ll see more brands shift their budget to include activity focussed around their brand values in 2022.
We may see brands diversifying their use of channels like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook away from acquisition-based messaging. Instead, they may move towards using these channels to deliver more brand-based messaging that retains and builds up the loyalty of their most valuable customers.
This would be achieved by launching more brand-based digital ads that showcase brand values. Content explaining the charitable initiatives the brand supports or reviews created by their customer community would work well here.
Or, brands will run more digital ads that retarget existing customers and remind them of the extra value they get for being a repeat customer or referring friends.
By shifting the focus of their digital ads, brands could see a greater return on ad spend as they’re engaging customers that already know them. Plus, they’ll be using the channel to build stronger relationships with new customers that are built on emotional alignment, rather than one-time purchases.
2022: The year to pivot, innovate and experiment
While the challenges of 2021 will almost certainly trickle through to 2022, I believe these changes are going to motivate more brands to experiment with what business-as-usual means to them.
We’re going to see more retailers prioritize customer experiences and emotional connections over sales-focused messaging. And we’ll see more marketers take the time to really get to know their customers. By pivoting their approaches, more brands will retain customers for longer, giving them a greater CLTV that can be invested back into whatever 2022 throws at them.
Want to read about some of the brands that have focussed on customer experiences and relationships this year? Download the LoyaltyLion Hall of Fame to see the loyalty marketers who have been doing all this and more.