Jim Herbert, VP for EMEA, BigCommerce
During the pandemic, businesses and consumers were forced to adapt. The result has been an explosion of innovation and development in the ecommerce space. However, it is important to note that these changes have long been in the making. The pandemic is not the cause but the catalyst.
Since then, the ecommerce industry has certainly come a long way, but the pace of innovation that characterises the industry is by no means decelerating. Many of the ecommerce trends ushered in by the pandemic are here to stay. Moving into 2022, now is the perfect time to look back on the factors that accelerated these trends, how retailers adjusted and why these trends will be prevalent in 2022.
The need for omnichannel
Omnichannel commerce puts the shopper at the center of the story, allowing retailers to meet them wherever they are. According to the Harvard Business Review, 73% of respondents engage with multiple channels during a purchase journey. Omnichannel commerce seeks to connect these disparate channels into a seamless, unified shopper journey. The pandemic and store closures forced competitive necessity and motivated retailers to adopt an omnichannel approach, expand their online offerings, bring the physical experience online and maximise all consumer touchpoints. These are now well-established trends that consumers have come to expect. In 2022, retailers yet to adopt an omnichannel strategy will benefit from doing so, fuelling further innovation as platforms and retailers strive to differentiate themselves.
The switch to social
Another key touchpoint is social media. As the pandemic led to social isolation, many people turned to social media to connect with loved ones they were unable to see physically. Facebook and Instagram reported a rise in monthly active users by 19 and 16 percent, respectively, whilst TikTok, Pinterest and Reddit all saw massive gains of more than 30% each during the pandemic.
With the increase in social media activity came an explosion of social commerce, as retailers moved to meet consumers where they spent their time. And social networks adapted in kind, launching tools enabling social commerce and powering sales where the entire experience can take place on the social media platform from discovery to checkout. Social commerce is a crucial facet of the omnichannel sales approach. Retailers are adapting to the fact that Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are not just apps but also storefronts, attracting shoppers to discover their brands through ads and livestreams, for example. A robust social commerce presence has become increasingly non-negotiable. As social media apps continue to develop their social commerce toolbox, early adopters will reap the rewards.
Moving to mobile
That many people’s primary connection to the internet is through a mobile device is far from a new phenomenon. But despite their near ubiquity, the proportion of those using mobile devices to engage with ecommerce continues to rise. Although the proportion of global website traffic has largely held steady at around 50% since 2017, reaching a 2021 peak of 54% , it is notable that the total volume of ecommerce sales driven by mobile is accelerating at a far greater pace. Mobile commerce as a proportion of total global ecommerce sales has risen by almost 20% over the same period. Trends like social commerce, seamless checkouts, and treating the mobile experience as equally important to the desktop storefront have contributed to this push. Crucially, these are trends which are still growing, implying a higher ceiling still, with great rewards for the retailers and ecommerce innovators who take the lead in these arenas.
Responsive front-end management
The ability to quickly and seamlessly adapt a storefront based on customer profile and inventory and sales trends is vital to maximise sales. No one wants their customer’s first impression of a site to be a wall of ‘sold out’ items. Instead, retailers who might be struggling to replenish certain goods need the freedom to adapt to efficiently. A headless solution, which allows retailers to modify the front end without engaging with the technical, time-consuming back end is key in enabling this. Replacing sold-out or near sold-out items with relevant substitutes in more prominent positions could mean the difference between a sale, or a customer immediately clicking away to a competitor.
For online retailers, it is vital that their platform is flexible enough to grow with them. In the past, more traditional ecommerce infrastructure needed to be replaced, or upgraded at great cost if demand, or the scope of their operation, outgrew the purposes of the site’s original design. This will no longer be acceptable in 2022. It is costly, can involve a significant time lag, specialist staff or retraining, and brings teething problems. In a competitive environment where margins are razor sharp and downtime and inefficiencies are unacceptable, it is vital that ecommerce merchants choose a platform that can effortlessly grow with them and can adapt as fast as they do.
What lies ahead?
Moving forward, these trends will continue. Even accounting for recent supply chain and logistical issues, the data is irrefutable that the pandemic has driven more customers online and kept them there. The most recent data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that despite falling from its lockdown-driven peak of 36.1%, constrained supply and the reopening of the high street haven’t stopped online spending as a proportion of total retail, holding strong at 27.3% as of October 2021. This is well above the most recent pre-pandemic number of 19.6% in February 2020.
In this online landscape, retailers must adapt to the fact that they may only have seconds to capture ecommerce attention, a far cry from the minutes of engagement in a physical store. Online, consumers are faced with countless competing messages, deals and images and can leave a store to visit a competitor with the swipe of a finger. The pandemic has shown retailers who adopt an omnichannel and headless solution can maximise each consumer touchpoint, no matter how brief. By adapting to consumers’ previous interactions, they can convert fragmented, brief touchpoints into a unified, personalised journey.
Competition drives innovation. But by looking at the developments merchants adopted to succeed in the challenging circumstances of the past two years, retailers can build a checklist of ecommerce techniques. Wider adoption means wider innovation and by building out a flexible ecommerce offering, retailers can prime themselves for success for what 2022 has in store.