Experience Is The New Brand


Recently we hosted a webinar highlighting the top 10 items ecommerce merchants are focused on in 2022. The webinar was based on Searchspring research conducted between December 2021 and the first few weeks of January 2022. Looking at the survey results, it was clear that 2022 is the year of investment for all things experience.

Last year, merchants focused on brand, product, customer service, pricing, and shopping experience as their top five investments. Data for 2022 suggest a major shift in priority, with respondents identifying personalization, advertising, shopping experience, and unique products taking center stage. Why the shift away from brand? What does “experience” truly mean?

To answer these questions, and a few others, we gathered a panel of experts:

  • Cristina Dinozo, Senior Director of Brand Marketing, Yotpo

  • Sue Hunter, VP of Strategy at CQL

We talked through each of the top 10 items, defining them more clearly and explaining their strategic importance in 2022, and beyond.

10.  Loyalty and referral programs

Loyalty and referral programs are a key part of the value proposition for shoppers. Currently, merchants are focused on how to execute these programs and analyze shoppers who have become part of a loyalty program. Do those shoppers spend more? Does loyalty increase repeat purchases?

9. Headless technology

Headless technology is the digital transformation that sites are going through today, part of a major upgrade in technology. Headless is focused on maximum flexibility and control in developing and delivering ecommerce sites. Overall, headless technology enables merchants to deploy new touch points more easily and deliver a consistent experience across those touch points.

8. Targeted recommendations

Recommendations are one of the key ways that shoppers feel like you know them, their habits, preferences, and shopping history. The key with recommendations is to make them productive and helpful rather than feel “creepy” like a website is “listening in” on conversations.

7. Customer support mechanisms

Shoppers today are doing more research than ever before. Not only do they want to know about product offerings, but they also want to know about billing, shipping, return policies, and support. Because of this, merchants need to think about not only how they communicate those policies but, most importantly, what those policies are and how empowered the staff is to make decisions based on consumer requests and needs.

6. SMS – Short Message Service

5. Flexible, fast, and reliable delivery

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that consumers want a high level of service around delivery and the traditional shippers have struggled to keep up. This is going to be a continued point of friction for both merchants and consumers into the future. Merchants must communicate clearly about delivery timelines so that consumers have proper and realistic expectations.

4. Fast and simple user experience

Fast and simple user experience is a top five concern every year. For 2022, the focus of merchants is on optimizing site performance, ensuring videos, images, and pages load as quickly as possible because no one likes to wait. Navigation and landing pages provide additional context and content for consumers to make decisions. Accelerated checkout burnishes a positive experience so that a shopper is more likely to return. This coming year may also be the “year of the subscription program” as these programs are attractive to shoppers and still relatively novel.

3. Flexible and simple procurement

Lots of discussion on this topic because it meant different things to the different panelists. In one respect, this meant the merchants needed to focus on efficient procurement of the items they sell. Supply chains are not going to magically improve, so more thinking is needed on buying. Another panelist interpreted this as the growth of the B2B ecommerce channel and how that impacts merchants as they learn to buy in a different way. A third understanding was that merchants are going to need to learn to working with new suppliers and the learning curve associated with that. Regardless of the interpretation, it is clear that merchants must spend time thinking about the procurement side of the business in greater detail.

2. Enhanced site search 

All panelists agreed, there remains a healthy percentage of shoppers that go directly to the site’s search to find what they are looking for. A poor search experience not only lowers engagement by actively drives shoppers away. Merchants need to choose search products that are “intelligent” and drive insights about what these search sessions say about their market. And, it is critical to remember, site search is not a “set it, and forget it” activity. Improvement and optimization are key to success.

1. Website personalization

Website personalization was the number one hot item! The key to success in 2022! Personalization “wears many hats.” The most important point about personalization is that while personalization represented huge opportunities for driving revenue, it is critical to experiment and test personalization process and program. The other important perspective on personalization is that some businesses are far along in their journey and many are just starting. So, personalization is still evolving. Whether it is recommendations onsite or recommendations in email, opt-in campaigns to get your consumers sharing info or aggregate data analysis , personalization takes many forms and results in many opportunities.

Along with the top 10 hot-ticket items, there were also three overarching takeaways worth sharing.

  • First, take the time to “sharpen the saw.” Never stop analyzing and questioning your site and decisions, as well as ensuring you stay up-to-date on ecommerce developments and technology.

  • Second. optimism drives the economy. Our research shows merchants optimistic about revenue in 2022 and beyond. It is this optimism that can feed the improvement of your business and your desire to improve customer experience.

  • Third, always look for ways to build. A site is never “done.” Quite the opposite actually. Building IS the business. Building is what makes your site’s experience grow and improve.

You can also register for Searchspring’s next webinar at the link below.

Special thanks to our friends at Searchspring for their insights on this topic.
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