Retail is an exciting, yet challenging universe to navigate in. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more so, exposing vulnerabilities and forcing you to adapt in ways you never thought possible.
But possible is the word for 2022. And as you figure out the best how, what, when, where and why for your online retail business, there are trends you can’t afford to ignore.
In this post, we’ll share 5 top e-commerce retail trends for 2022 (with a few brick and mortar gems). Even if you can’t respond to these trends right away, it’s worth it to become knowledgeable so you can expertly plan future implementations to meet shoppers’ needs.
Check out these retail trends and get on board with anything that will help you reach your customers so you can deliver what they want (and need), with a new level of safety, speed, and flexibility.
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Top 5 Retail Trends
Here are 5 top retail trends that we think will be important for years to come:
- Payment flexibility
- Marketing to the work at home segment
- Integrating the direct to consumer model (DTC)
- Hassle-free returns
- Going beyond free shipping and fast delivery
1. Payment flexibility is a must.
Your retail shoppers want options even before they reach the shopping cart. That means making sure they know what payment options you offer and ensuring those options are flexible. The keyword here is quality not quantity.
Having a few different options gives your shopper power. Too many might make the process confusing.
In addition to standard credit card and PayPal payments, here are a few considerations as you craft your e-commerce payment offerings:
Seamless omnichannel payments
No matter where your customer makes the decision to buy, in-store or laying on a couch at home, keep the experience seamless. Streamline your secure payment offerings so that they are cohesive. This is especially important for omnichannel shopping.
To have a seamless payment architecture, you’ll want to invest in making sure that your mobile shopping, online shop, kiosk, brick and mortar storefront (if you have one), and social commerce payment options are aligned and compliant with the payment card industry and secure payment standards.
It also doesn’t hurt to invest in future proof payment solutions. Ask representatives for payment solutions how they are positioned for growth and compliance as standards change.
Even if you aren’t ready to accept crypto, you can’t ignore it. It’s a good use of time to learn more about this steadily emerging way to pay for goods and services. If you don’t, you could miss out on another revenue stream entirely.
Yes, there are pros and cons to accepting cryptocurrency so do your research. Check out crypto processors like Coinbase and BitPay and learn the advantages and disadvantages of accepting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in your ecommerce store. After all, Bitcoin use is on the rise amongst consumers, so it makes sense to pay attention to what holds consumer interest.
According to a poll by The Ascent, a service by Motley Fool, the use of BNPL services is on the rise. Between July 2020 and March 2021, BNPL usage experienced a leap of 48%.
This payment alternative is on a path for continued growth so it makes sense to educate yourself on the options, as there are many flavors of BNPL. And since all BNPL options aren’t the same, you’ll need to tap into your knowledge of your shopper base to determine the best fit. For example, if your shoppers have low or no credit you may want to go with a BNPL that offers this type of financing, or if you have a higher ticket prices you will want a BNPL with higher limits and longer payment terms.
BNPL providers also operate under different business models. Most are point-of-sale (POS) financing options that may have various eligibility requirements and in essence, are giving the shopper a loan. Many lenders offer no interest or fees if you pay on time, while others offer a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for a certain period of time. POS financing may not always be the best option, and it can lead to late fees and overextending the shopper financially.
Splitit is the only credit card-based BNPL solution that leverages a shopper’s existing Visa or Mastercard. There are no applications, credit checks, fees or interest. Your shoppers can choose their monthly payment terms and get more up front while they pay over time.
Along with Splitit, BNPL providers like Affirm, Sezzle and Afterpay are considered some of the best BNPL apps of 2022. With a little research, you can choose the best option and build goodwill with your shoppers by giving them suitable payment alternatives. You might find that you need more than one BNPL solution to cater to your customers.
Accept multiple currencies
If you plan to expand globally, you’ll want to research payment platforms that can process multiple currencies. You’ll want to partner with a business that smooths out the challenges of selling cross border. Look into global payment processors like PayPal, Flutterwave, Stripe, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other top or emerging payment processors.
2. Market to the growing WFH community and adjacent populations.
Just as shoppers expect payment flexibility, employees are starting to expect remote work options. A FlexJobs survey between March and April 2021 revealed that 58% of those polled would look for a new job if a remote option was taken away.
The work from home (WFH) community is expanding. And with so much time spent at home, retailers can capitalize on connecting their goods and services with the WFH lifestyle.
This community is made up of a new segment of remote workers who began working at home at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but can also include those you are now deciding to look or remote work, have launched a home-based business, or prefer to be digital nomads (working anywhere their jobs take them).
Here are a few ways you can reach these niche-specific consumers:
- Personalized marketing — Salesforce research indicates that 66% of consumers expect businesses to understand their unique needs, but only 34% of companies treat them as unique individuals. In short, personalization is desirable. There is a huge opportunity to provide tailored engagement, and this not only works for remote workers, but any group you wish to target.
- Building a community — Another way to engage your shoppers is by building a community. This can be through social media, creating a shopper-focused blog, or even offering a subscription-based membership if it makes sense for your business. Treating your subscribers like family by giving them exclusive access to events or unpublished discounts can go a long way.
- Upgrading your content — Are you using long-tail keywords? What about backlinks? If not, it’s time to revisit your content and add those in. You can use free tools like Ubersuggest or paid ones from Semrush, but whatever you do, take time to focus on whether your content is reaching people. Target your content to those who work remotely and you might get more hits.
- Social media stories — Stories are a quick way to capture attention, and for those who work at home and may not have a lot of free time, they can be ideal. Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms use a story feature. It’s a chance to show how to use a product, connect to the WFH lifestyle, or provide a helpful tip or laugh.
And while these are just a few ways to capture the attention of this growing segment of workers (who like to shop), you’ll also have to pay attention to the “return” to the office.
Inevitably, people will migrate back to their company’s corporate office full-time, or work in a hybrid model between their employer’s office and home. When that happens, expect another shift in retail — especially when it comes to business attire, items to sanitize workspaces, and portable lunch solutions like mini food warmers and insulated containers.
Your content will be key in addressing these populations. If you have the budget to hire a content team, it’s one of the best ways to put your name out in the marketplace the right way. Trusted, consistent, helpful content can be the gateway to engaging and keeping loyal shoppers.
3. DTC is here to stay.
Direct to consumer e-commerce, sometimes called DTC or D2C has changed everything. Shoppers are responding to brands that cut out the third-party costs and deliver the goods directly. And e-commerce sales continue to rise globally — an estimated 2 billion people bought goods and services online in 2021, up from 1.32 billion shoppers in 2014.
Look at brands like Made In cookware. The DTC brand launched in 2017, but is now competing with the likes of All-Clad, a brand established in the 1970s. But you don’t have to be a DTC business to use DTC principles. Take a look at Nike, who began embracing DTC practices in the digital space and realized a sales growth of 82% in the first quarter of 2020.
Splitit works with direct to consumer brands like Canyon, a leading, award-winning, high-performance bicycle brand based in Germany. Splitit’s business model works especially well with DTC brands offering products at premium prices so shoppers can benefit from enjoying purchases now while paying in full over time.
And, since it’s not a complex setup, Splitit can quickly offer a payment solution for startup e-commerce brands. Most recently, Splitit took pre-order payments for GRIND Basketball, a business that appeared on ABCs Shark Tank and received a generous investment offer. Splitit continues to be GRIND’s BNPL provider.
Expect to see more DTC brands like GRIND and Canyon in 2022 as well as large traditional brands emulating the DTC concept. It’s heavily focused on direct shipping and digital sales: ecommerce shops, mobile buying, and social commerce.
4. Your return game must be strong.
Your return policy impacts sales more than you know. In fact, if you’re not offering a hassle-free return policy, shoppers might go elsewhere to find a business that does.
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Allow in-store returns — If you have a brick and mortar store, allow shoppers to bring ecommerce returns there. Sometimes the hassle of repackaging and shipping an item back to a warehouse is too much to bear, especially a large item like a flatscreen TV.
- Partner with shipping businesses — You can outsource your fulfillment and returns to a third-party or handle returns through a shipping business. For example, Amazon allows some returns through UPS without the customer having to repackage the item.
- Offer white-glove return services — Giving your customer the option to have a third-party or in-house team that will pick up a return is an example of next-level service. Just be sure your team follows safety protocols to make your customers feel at ease, such as wearing masks and gloves and practicing social-distancing.
- Offer paid return shipping — No need to include a return shipping label in the box. That is just wasted paper if it’s not needed. Offer a way for shoppers to print a prepaid return label if they need to return an item.
- Keep customers in the loop — From pre-sale to post, make sure they understand the product or service with in-depth descriptions, measurements, materials and any other pertinent information. This can cut down on returns, but should they need to return the item, communicate with them at every stage: return initiated, item received, refund issued, etc.
The point here is to ensure that they are happy with your product or service. If you make your policy clear, letting shoppers know the conditions for a return and refund, including any costs involved, and how long they have to return an item, it builds goodwill.
5. Shipping and delivery methods must reach new heights.
Retailers know that shoppers love free shipping. Offering free shipping once a shopper reaches a certain spending threshold, as an introductory offer, or even for a time-sensitive deal is a proven method to boost your bottom line.
And, of course, it always makes sense to invest in ways to deliver goods and services faster. These days, it’s almost expected.
Still, 2022 is about having an even greater vision for how you ship and deliver.
Here are just a few ideas for new ways to improve the shipping and delivery experience:
- Create partnerships — Sometimes, you may need to partner with a delivery service. Take for instance the recent partnership between Ulta and DoorDash, which provides same-day delivery of beauty brands. Think of the impact it would make for your loyal customers to get their favorite goods from your shop on the same or next day!
- Offer real-time delivery tracking — Using GPS technology, some carriers, such as UPS, offer real-time map tracking on the day of delivery. Customers can see how near the delivery truck is to their address. If you have your own fleet, you can also invest in similar technology.
- Get to know your carriers — Work to build a good relationship with those who deliver your goods. Research all available options in the geographic areas you serve and make it a point to know your shipping points of contact (POCs) in each area. That way, when issues arise, you have someone on the inside dedicated to resolving the issue.
- Ship strategically — Pay attention to where your customers live. If you have an area that is saturated with loyal customers, consider opening some fulfillment/shipping hubs in that area. This way you can deliver to them more quickly.
- Embrace technology — Automate as much as you can. You can use automation software and tools to lighten the load and reduce human errors that can delay shipping.
- Consider retail lockers — This gives shoppers power as they can go get their purchase on their own time in a secure location, without having to worry about porch pirates.
Of course, there are issues such as supply chain delays that can make fast delivery a challenge. But any effort you can take to hasten shopper gratification will make a difference. Have a plan for how you will make sure your shoppers get what they purchased, even in a crisis or during the holidays.
It’s always good to be aware of trends. It provides an opportunity to align your business with what shoppers want. Keep in mind, the trends in this post are based on the shape-shifting nature of retail. Things always change. Always do your research to make choices that are best for your business and especially your customers in 2022 and beyond.