eCommerce is big business – that’s old news – but what does 2022-2023 hold in store for it? What are the current eCommerce trends, and the top UK startups, to watch in 2022?
eCommerce is an increasingly important part of the economy and for both large enterprises and smaller individual businesses, it is a massive growth sector.
Partly boosted by the Covid pandemic (but only partly), by September 2021, around 29% of money spent in the UK was online.
Indeed, approximately 70% of the UK population now prefer to buy online, compared to less than 50% in 2019.
This is not to say that there has been a huge decline in face-to-face spending, and it is worth noting that the impact of eCommerce increases also varies across different market sectors.
Many hospitality businesses, for example, have partly survived by adapting themselves in unique ways online over the past two years, but it doesn’t mean that face-to-face hospitality is disappearing. Quite the opposite – as the population has opened up, we are finally seeing a return to live events, hotel bookings and holidays.
But undeniably, the market has changed; it has adapted to a new client base with new demands and expectations, and it will never be quite the same as it was ‘before’.
So our question is this: What is to come in the next year for eCommerce, and who are some of the major influencers shaping this new future for us? Well, we will be covering seven key areas in this article:
- Live shopping experiences
- Social media UGC
- Post-purchase content
- Upgrading your online presence
…and for each, we are suggesting two startups who may be able to help you develop that strategy, if that is what you need.
Here are our suggestions for how eCommerce will develop in 2022, together with a few startups who will help you along.
This list is not in any particular order of importance, but all the same, it would be remiss of us not to begin without first mentioning sustainability.
According to one survey, 77% of people are concerned about the environmental impact of products that they buy.
And it’s not just about the sourcing of raw materials, or how the product is made. Customers are far more aware today, even compared to just a few years ago, of the environmental impact of shipping/transportation, storage, carbon offsetting and other global effects.
This is more than ‘buying natural’, this has impacts on a brand’s supply chain as well as delivery.
More people want to shop local – they may still buy online, but they are actively seeking out local suppliers and local products.
They also want to know about a brand’s green credentials before they buy.
Who can help?
2. Live shopping experiences
One of the reasons that face-to-face commerce will never die out completely is that people love the interaction!
Live shopping experiences are an attractive blend of eCommerce and high street shopping, through an online platform.
Contrary to those late-night shopping channels (you know the ones) and their unusual offerings, live shopping experiences draw on the power of social media and blends it with customer interaction.
They are a winner for sales conversions, feedback and customer engagement.
And rather than having to be a tech genius yourself, some great startups have created platforms that give this ability to us all.
The Live shopping experience phenomena is growing fast, and becoming one of the more popular styles of online selling, and this is only going to accelerate during 2022.
Who can help?
3. Social media UGC
Away from the live shopping experience, no eCommerce business will fully succeed in 2022 without interaction on social media.
From Instagram to Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat and TikTok, and hundreds in between, social media is no longer a platform, it’s a part of everyday life.
And on all these platforms, short-form videos are fast becoming the go-to for sales as well as entertainment. Seeing the success of TikTok, Instagram launched Reels and even YouTube got in on the short-form action with Shorts.
Some of the most influential videos in the eCommerce environment are User Generated Content (UGC). UGC has far more influence over consumer purchasing decisions than many other types of content. It has a raw authenticity that appeals to customers and is deemed trustworthy. UGC even influences purchase decision-making more than influencer and brand-generated content.
eCommerce platforms take note – short-form videos are popular, they grab the attention (in an increasingly competitive space) and they sell.
Who can help?
4. Post-purchase content
Post-purchase content covers a broad range of subjects but includes training and how-to videos, subscriptions, help and support, FAQs, user forums and more.
What all these various services have in common is that they are a platform for customer engagement.
The exact services that will suit your customers best will vary depending on your business and product range, but some form of contact should be maintained with your client base. Engagement of this type increases repeat and additional orders, and upselling opportunities.
In addition, it provides you access to direct feedback – an invaluable tool both for improvement and future marketing opportunities.
Other examples of post-purchase content are review requests, post-purchase vouchers/offers, incentivised referral requests, and even includes additional offers at the checkout cart (before the original order is paid for).
With competition only increasing this year, you need to be pulling out all the stops to gain and retain customers – and post-purchase content will be a major part of that in 2022.
Who can help?
5. Upgrading your online presence
Without a doubt, a second rate online presence is no longer good enough, under any circumstances. Web presence needs to be modern, attractive, fast and developed for mobile screens since that is where the vast majority of online interaction now takes place.
mCommerce, as it is now known is projected to account for almost 50% of all eCommerce by 2025, although many projections put it sooner than that.
So if your current online presence is not up to scratch, now is the time to get it there.
Whatever screen shape or form it takes, if it’s more than a couple of years old, then your eCommerce offering probably needs at least a few tweaks, if not a major makeover.
Make 2022 the year you redesign, redevelop or re-enhance your digital public face.
Who can help?
Another way to connect with your customers, Livechat is a service that is now expected from anyone that needs customer contact (and that is just about every business).
The strange two years that was Covid introduced a large percentage of the population to eCommerce for the first time, and they are not used to it; what was one alien has become routine for them. But they still have questions and still, often, want to deal with a real person!
Livechat can be run entirely by A.I., by humans or as a hybrid system where the robot handles simple queries, much like an intelligent FAQ service, and then hands off trickier questions to a real person. Whichever way you run it, customers almost always prefer Livechat over endless phone menu lists and/or voicemail.
And unlike email, they get an immediate response.
With an increasing about of commerce being conducted online, not only do you need to be able to respond to your customers using digital methods, you also need to do it fast. Part-automation of your online communications is one solution; leaving customers waiting for 10 minutes is certainly no longer an option.
Who can help?
Personalisation comes in many forms – from emails to targeted ads to unique offers to individual customers. The aim of personalisation is, naturally, to increase sales, but the mechanism is designed to be individual to each customer, rather than using a blanket approach.
This means that messaging is more meaningful, offers are more relevant and often, will result in the customer feeling more valued, which is one of the best marketing approaches you can take.
Targeted offerings may be based on previous purchases or other knowledge gleaned from the customer’s public online presence. Replenishment offers, if you sell consumables, are a great way to pick up repeat business if timed correctly.
VIP recognition is singling out your special customers – ones who have been with you for a long time, or the ones who generate your highest order values – and giving them special treatments or offers.
Personalisation can be handled by emails, texts, newsletters, and even phone calls. Cross-channel marketing also falls under this banner, following a potential customer across their social media with targeted ads after their prior browsing (or an abandoned cart).
Cross-channel strategies can even save on business embarrassment by doing the exact opposite – for example, after a purchase is made, it can ensure that the customer does not then come across the same product being offered for a cheaper price on another social platform.
Increased personalisation is, in 2022, a real winner. In a sea of faceless online automation, singling out your customers through various personalised approaches, giving them recognition and making them feel valued will generate some of the best ROI you will see this year.
Who can help?
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Data source: crunchbase.com