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The Future of Ecommerce: Sustainability, Social Selling and Other Trends for 2022

Wilson Lau

Sr. SEO Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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The story of ecommerce has been one of near-constant expansion, and that was before a global health crisis in 2020 caused a growth spurt of over 35%, adding over $800 billion in value to the worldwide online shopping market. That kind of growth promises remarkable opportunities in the future of ecommerce as new brands enter the market with innovative products and services and established online sellers branch out into new areas. It also increases the level of competition across the marketplace, making it more essential than ever for marketers at ecommerce brands to stay on the cutting edge of audience expectations and work to deliver innovative ecommerce experiences that reflect their customers’ evolving attitudes and values.

This explosive growth is accompanied by a rapid change in how customers choose brands and allocate their loyalty. Convenience, price, navigability, and ease of access have always been essential to ecommerce shoppers, but now, consumers have their eyes on more than just dollar figures and shipping times. Increasingly, shoppers choose brands that fit their values, drawing more attention to environmental sustainability, social engagement, and brand authenticity.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most critical ecommerce trends for 2022 and beyond.

Mobile Shopping Experiences Become Essential

Already, ecommerce shoppers do most of their purchasing on mobile devices, mainly smartphones. But it’s clear that with every passing year, more and more customers are becoming comfortable shopping on their phones, and the trend is unlikely to slow soon. According to Statista, nearly 73% of ecommerce shopping happens on mobile devices in 2021, up from just over 52% in 2016. That’s a massive jump in just five years, one that predicts continued reliance on smartphones for browsing, purchasing, and solving problems.

In response, ecommerce brands will need to continue to shift focus from desktop experiences to mobile shopping. Responsive web design is already the name of the game — you’ll find few established ecommerce shops built exclusively for desktop, and many are going so far as to create their own mobile apps to centralize the shopping customer experience. 

Indeed, centralization might be the critical factor in creating positive mobile experiences. Mobile use isn’t just an ecommerce trend — virtually every part of society, from banking and health care to grocery shopping and investing, can now be done with a mobile device. That means shoppers are constantly connected to their phones and looking for brands that can integrate the shopping process into their mobile use. The most successful brands in the future of ecommerce will be the ones that invest in mobile experiences early and focus on refining those experiences.

Sustainability Is Top-of-Mind for Shoppers

One of the most significant changes to affect the ecommerce business world in recent years has been the increasing focus on environmental sustainability and responsibility. As issues related to the environment and global climate permeate media and shoppers grow more aware of environmental problems with the products and brands they like, consumers have responded by demanding better from retailers, manufacturers, and marketers.

It’s no longer enough to slap a “green” badge on a product and call it sustainable. Shoppers today want brands to demonstrate concrete commitments to environmental responsibility that go beyond packaging. The spotlight on brands’ environmental impact is getting more intense, and those brands will need to adapt not just their messaging and presentation but also their sourcing practices and manufacturing techniques.

Marketing becomes vital in this equation because it’s essential to tell the story of environmental responsibility to demonstrate an understanding of customers’ values. Expect more attention to be paid to sustainability pledges in the future of ecommerce.

Keep On Personalizing

Any ecommerce marketer with even a few months of experience knows that personalization is an essential ingredient in any marketing recipe. It’s the most critical factor in choosing which brand to purchase from for more than 50% of shoppers. Expectations have evolved to the point where a non-personalized experience is likely to send a customer looking elsewhere.

Today, personalization means creating entire experiences that reflect each customer’s interests, behavioral trends, and values. That means you can’t get away with adding your customer’s name to an automated email and calling it a day. Strong personalization means product recommendations that fit the customer’s needs and catering your marketing communications to the shopping patterns they’ve demonstrated in the past. And with new marketing strategies and ecommerce technologies emerging every day, there are sure to be fresh ways to engage with customers and keep content feeling personal and relevant.

Social Media Continues to Dominate

Already, social media constitutes a significant channel for promoting brands and products. With major platforms like Facebook and Instagram evolving alongside newer services like TikTok that appeal to younger consumers, it’s easier than ever to use social media to find brands, explore products, and make purchases. That’s partly because more young users are joining those platforms, opening up new opportunities for brands.

It’s also partly due to the rapid expansion of social selling tools available to online retailers, including shoppable videos, immersive augmented reality experiences, and influencers with thousands, if not millions of followers. In the future of ecommerce, social selling is likely to be a significant source of revenue for brands, rivaling and potentially eclipsing sales through more traditional channels. That’s why it’s critical for brands to invest in an authentic social media presence that engages directly with users, helps solve their problems, and makes shopping easy.

Keep Your Brand at the Leading Edge 

Today’s ecommerce trends are just as much rooted in customer values as in new marketing tech and digital tools. Customers are raising their expectations for brands in virtually every way, from environmental responsibility in supply chains and product design to authenticity in marketing and immersive shopping experiences. The future of ecommerce is looking bright — keep your brand at the leading edge of customer expectations, and you’ll be primed for success in the long run.

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