Trend report 2022: mind your e-businessFebruary 2022
As the e-commerce industry continues to shift, brands will be challenged with a series of trends set to define the year ahead. From inclusivity, sustainability and social commerce driven by Gen Z culture to AI-based voice shopping and chatbots to augmented reality and video marketing that harness 5G technology, we’ve tapped into seven intersectional trends for 2022. These consumer habits, ideas and beliefs shaped by technological advances, social issues, climate change and the pandemic will help your brand shake things up and stay ahead of the game.
1. Inclusivity - consider every demographic
More than just a buzzword du jour, inclusivity now headlines every e-commerce playbook. Brands looking to up their inclusivity game need to overhaul their approach to deliver products and experiences that are accessible and appealing on a global scale.
“People will continue to shop their values in 2022, turning away from retailers who fail to embrace diversity and inclusivity and moving towards those that do.”
People will continue to shop their values in 2022, turning away from retailers who fail to embrace diversity and inclusivity and moving towards those that do. According to Accenture Research, 41% of shoppers shift their business away from retailers who don’t reflect inclusivity and diversity. Which makes weaving inclusivity into your businesses not only the right thing to do from a social perspective, but for your bottom line as well.
That means it’s time for brands to incorporate inclusive content and language into their websites by deploying gender-neutral interfaces – using terms like folks, visitors and members instead of the gendered men and women. It’s time to take an inclusive approach to design by recognizing and considering users’ needs and limitations and creating e-commerce spaces where different people can feel welcome and seen. In a gender-fluid world, these changes are happening across all industries, and many, like fashion e-commerce brands that don’t divide their collections by sex or gender, are at the forefront of this shift towards non-conformity.
2. Sustainability - keep it (environmentally) friendly
A recent study of 6,000 consumers in North America, Asia and Europe found that people are overwhelmingly paying more attention to sustainability when they shop, with over 80% of survey participants saying that they felt it was “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally conscious products. The trend is clear: 72% said they buy more environmentally friendly products than five years ago, and 81% said they expected to purchase more over the next five years.
“E-commerce businesses that want to double down on sustainability and attract this broad customer base should fully embrace going green.”
With the pandemic boosting global awareness of environmental issues and consumer concerns about climate change reaching a tipping point in 2021, the broader shift to sustainability—in products, in packaging, in marketing—is expected to continue in 2022. E-commerce businesses that want to double down on sustainability and attract this broad customer base should fully embrace going green. Companies can reduce their footprint by adding an optional carbon offset charge at checkout and using eco-friendly packaging and recycling options; even mega-company Amazon has jumped on board and now offers ways for environmentally conscious customers to recycle the brand’s packaging. More than just garnering brands brownie points, sustainability is emerging as a way for brands to create positive change – a win-win for companies, consumers and the planet.
3. Social commerce - shopping while socializing
If you’re on social media, you’ve seen it. Scroll Facebook or Instagram, and every photo you see with a product tag or a “buy now” button on it is social commerce: using a brand’s social media platforms to make sales through a seamless in-app path to purchase. Social commerce means that consumers can experience the buyer journey without ever leaving the app – from finding the product to purchase, it all happens on social media. With one less click for customers to take, that’s one less opportunity for them to abandon their cart.
The trend has been around for a while but jumped to the top of every e-commerce retailers list when the pandemic hit. According to a recent survey, 55.5% of consumers aged 18-24 and 48.7% of consumers aged 25-34 made at least one purchase on social media in 2021. US social commerce is estimated at a $51.2 billion industry in 2022 and is forecast to reach $79,6 billion by 2025.
“In this trusted environment, where influencers shape and inspire, users are more eager to become buyers and to spend their money on brands that align with their values.”
Gen-Z consumers trust social media: 97% use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration, and 62% percent of 13 to 39-year-old consumers are interested in purchasing items directly from their social media feeds. In this trusted environment, where influencers shape and inspire, users are more eager to become buyers and to spend their money on brands that align with their values. And with 90% buying from brands they follow on social media, this isn’t a space limited to the big players – social commerce can also be a lucrative revenue source for smaller brands.
4. Voice commerce - Alexa, who’s voice shopping?
According to Statista, the number of digital voice assistants in use worldwide is estimated to reach 8.4 billion by 2024. That’s a massive uptick in growth for technology (now ubiquitous in smartphone and stand-alone devices like Google Home and Alexa) that only hit the market in 2014. In an industry driven by convenience, e-commerce retailers like Amazon want to make shopping even easier by harnessing the power of voice recognition technology – and this convenience has far-reaching implications.
“Voice commerce, which allows people to order products by using voice commands, could be the next disruptive tech in e-commerce: it’s a stupid-simple way for consumers to shop.”
Voice commerce, which allows people to order products by using voice commands, could be the next disruptive tech in e-commerce: it’s a stupid-simple way for consumers to shop. But with no website to visit and no buttons to click, voice shopping requires a whole new approach to design. Customers adopting the tech will experience brands without visuals, making sounds, voices, even the structure of responses fundamental elements of the shopping process. Navigation is also a major aspect to nail down – consumers can only remember so much without seeing their options in front of them, and menus of services will become a thing of the past when shopping through a smart speaker.
By 2022, 55% of U.S. homes will be equipped with smart speakers, as Juniper Research predicts. Larger companies like Amazon and Google are currently dominating the voice shopping market, and since this is an emerging trend solutions are still limited. But a survey of 400 business owners found that a whopping 91% are already making significant investments in voice and 94% plan to increase their investment in the coming year. The race towards the future of voice commerce is on.
5. Augmented reality - from brick to click
Accelarated by the pandemic, augmented reality proved to be another one of e-commerce’s recent successes. Customers that couldn’t visit brick-and-mortar stores flocked online to virtually try on clothes, accessories, cosmetics and other products without ever leaving their homes. AR technology kept retailers connected to their consumers through an engaging customer experience that boosted conversions.
It’s interactive. It’s cool. And it keeps customers on your site for longer, which increases the chance that they’ll make a purchase. “Try-before-you-buy” experiences ranging from seeing what furniture and products would look like in your home to trying on luxury fashion hold customers’ attention and has a positive impact on conversion rates. According to new data released from Shopify, interactions with products with AR content showed a 94% higher conversion rate than those without them.
Augmented reality can also help alleviate a major pain point for brands and retailers: returns. In the US alone, consumers returned an estimated $428 billion in merchandise to retailers in 2020, approximately 10.6 percent of the country’s total retail sales. Anything to alleviate that burden is music to the ears of the entire e-commerce industry. Products seen through AR give consumers a better sense of size, color and dimension, which means that products are less likely to be returned.
“Augmented reality can also help alleviate a major pain point for brands and retailers: returns.”
AR tech can also make e-commerce sites and UX experiences more inclusive. AI-powered imagery can make it possible for fashion retailers, for example, to choose from an entire range of models with different skin tones, body sizes and ethnicities – a hassle-free way to incorporate inclusivity into retail imagery.
6. Chatbots – let’s chat
Ninety percent of consumers with a customer service question rate an “immediate” response as important or very important (and 60% of customers define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less). When paired with consumers’ growing need for round-the-clock response and uninterrupted service, many e-commerce retailers are finding it hard to keep up the pace. And simple email support – or worse, keeping customers waiting on the phone – isn’t going to cut it anymore. Chatbots to the rescue.
“Conversational chatbots make it easier for companies to concentrate their support efforts on dealing with those harder-to-solve issues."
Customers love them; 69% like using chatbots because they provide quick replies to simple questions, and four out of every five people who have interacted with a chatbot say the experience was generally positive. For companies, it’s a way to win customers’ hearts by working smarter. By handling 80% of the repetitive simple questions that customers have, conversational chatbots make it easier for companies to concentrate their support efforts on dealing with those harder-to-solve issues. Want to automate your customer support? You can make a chatbot for that. Want to help answer your customers’ questions at different touchpoints on your website? There’s a chatbot to help.
Even more impressive than these numbers are the massive success (and money) that e-commerce businesses are making off integrating chatbots into their services. For example, LEGO’s chatbot helps shoppers pick the perfect gift, providing personalized recommendations through Messenger. The result? The bot helped LEGO to reduce their cost per conversion by 31% (vs. other conversion-based ads) and in some markets it saw a 6X return on ad spend.
7. Video commerce - when seeing is believing
It’s no secret that video is hot. By the end of 2022, video traffic will make up 82% of all global consumer traffic, and 73% of consumers are more likely to buy products after watching videos that show them in action. Nearly nine out of ten people report wanting to see more videos from brands, painting a picture of a tool that’s universally popular across all audiences.
“With online attention spans shorter than ever, consumers would rather watch a video than read a product description.”
Much like with AR, customers place their trust in what they see, and when they see what they’re getting before they press the buy button, return rates are lower. With online attention spans shorter than ever, consumers would rather watch a product video than read a product description. Brands know it and have been deploying videos that are changing the e-commerce landscape. E-commerce brands have also embraced the power of shoppable videos as a way to engage consumers while delivering direct and instant sales; shortening the path to purchase, these videos showcase content that directs shoppers to info like reviews, product descriptions, and buying details with a simple click.
With 78% of internet users watching videos every week, it’s clear that video is king. E-commerce retailers looking to capitalize on the video frenzy in the year ahead will need to craft video strategies—incorporating popular trends like unpacking videos or customer testimonials or shoppable videos—that meet the habits of video-savvy and content-hungry consumers.
Illustration: Anna Sarvira