Retail industry trends have long been evolving as smart phones, everywhere internet access, and social media have absolutely transformed the consumer shopping experience. Every one of these trends and more have been accelerated and intensified by the pandemic. First, retail brands had to quickly adapt to operating without brick-and-mortar stores. Then, they quickly realized many of these adjustments would have to be made permanent as consumers continued to demand new conveniences like curbside pickup and same-day delivery.
Over the past two years, it’s been the most agile retailers who have stayed on top — those willing to look at industry trends and consumer preferences and embrace them in ways that created opportunity rather than roadblocks. These trends, many of which had already been emerging prior to COVID-19, not only saved the day for retailers during the hardest periods of the pandemic but have turned into industry norms and competitive requirements.
In this post, we’ll explore 3 of these trends and what they’ll look like for 2022 and beyond.
- Omnichannel retail strategies create frictionless experiences for consumers and give traditional brands an opportunity to keep up with digitally native competitors.
- Social shopping integration allows brands to meet consumers where they already are: scrolling social media feeds.
- Influencer partnerships are an increasingly effective way for brands to connect with target audiences in niche markets.
3 ecommerce trends saving the day for the retail industry
First things first: omnichannel is more than multichannel. Multichannel retail gives customers several options for making purchases and interacting with brands — in-store, online, over the phone, and now through apps and social media platforms.
Omnichannel doesn’t just offer these options, it integrates them so that the consumer experience is consistent, streamlined, and personal. With truly omnichannel retail, consumers can move from in-store to online to social media to apps and easily access the same order history and other personal account information. When they call customer service, reps can also access this information for convenient support services.
You probably see omnichannel retail strategies in action every time you shop. Examples include:
- Saving your shopping cart across channels (i.e. online and in-app)
- Choosing delivery or in-store pickup options when shopping online
- Scanning loyalty card in an app when shopping in-store
- Checking inventory availability at in-store locations through an app or website
- Scanning a QR code to execute no-contact curbside pickup
So how is omnichannel technology saving the day for retailers? Most recently, it’s made it possible for retailers to maintain their relationships with customers in a time when traditional shopping methods were eliminated without notice. Long term, it’s also making it possible for traditional retailers to remain competitive with direct-to-consumer brands that are meeting consumers where they’re at (online) and last-mile fulfillment trailblazer Amazon.
Recent research also shows that truly omnichannel retailers across categories are gaining more organic traffic and spending less money on advertising than their non-omnichannel competitors.
Over the past few years, online shopping underwent a significant shift that many of us may not have even noticed. Retailers, though? They paid attention, and today about two-thirds of consumers are doing at least some of their online shopping directly via social media as a result of brand advertising geared toward this behavior.
Between 2019 and 2020, social shopping grew by 25% — from 64 million to 80 million consumers buying items through Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other platforms. Sales from social commerce and its subsequent share of overall retail sales is projected to continue to growing over the next several years.
It’s saving the day for retailers by serving as the newest form of frictionless shopping. In other words, brands can connect with consumers in a way that’s seamless and doesn’t interrupt what they’re already doing: scrolling social media feeds.
It’s also an important replacement for critical advertising that used to happen via channels like magazines, catalogs, TV commercials, and billboards — all channels that still exist but are fast-becoming less effective as people watch commercialless TV and become less and less engaged with print media.
Celebrity brand endorsements used to be the key to the kingdom for brands promoting new products. But a new kind of celebrity has arrived — the social media influencer — and brands large and small are turning increasingly to influencer partnerships to promote products and drive sales. In many cases, brands are even reallocating dollars in this direction rather than go the traditional celebrity endorsement route.
To understand how influencer marketing worlds, it’s important to know how influencers are defined categorically depending on their number of followers.
You might assume that bigger is always better when it comes to choosing influencers to partner with — in other words, the more followers an influencer has, the greater impact they’ll have promoting your products. But this actually isn’t always the case. Nano and micro influencers are an attractive partnership prospect for brands because they’re generally more connected to their audience, thus making them more impactful when sharing product recommendations.
In the influencer world, nano and micro influencers are currently the sweet spot for most brands, while macro and mega influencers serve as a tactic more similar to traditional celebrity endorsements.
Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 State of Marketing Report shows the engagement numbers across tiers and platforms, clearly showing better engagement for influencers with smaller followings and that the numbers decrease steadily as follower numbers increase.
Influencer marketing has breathed new life into the opportunities for creativity and connection that brands have for promoting products to their target audiences. And it’s really effective. Nearly 70% of consumers trust influencer recommendations compared to just under 40% who trust branded social media content.
Social media platforms have seamlessly integrated influencer marketing into their in-app shopping capabilities, too (think Instagram’s “swipe up to buy” option or TikTok’s dedicated shopping tab), making it easier than ever for consumers to purchase products directly from influencer posts and videos.
Connection is the winning retail industry trend
Across all trends is a common theme — consumer connection — that brands must continue to pursue to stay successful. Consumers are savvier than ever before, and today they expect brands to create full experiences using the technologies available today — experiences that are personalized, convenient, and engaging.
Omnichannel technologies, social media, and influencer partnerships have all given brands new and plentiful opportunities to stay connected with consumers amidst recent unpredictability and larger overall shifts toward less in-person interaction and higher digital engagement. Brands can use these strategies to meet consumers where they are and stay connected in new, creative, and exciting ways.
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